Obituary: Bertram David Thomas
February 25, 2004
Bertram D. Thomas, former president of Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, died Feb. 15 at the age of 100 at his home in Montecito, Calif. His clarity of thought, breadth of vision and generous view of other people defined a 34-year career in science and engineering research administration.
Thomas served on the board of the Aspen Music Festival, and his daughter Nancy Glorian Thomas lives in Aspen.
Dr. Thomas joined the research staff of Battelle in 1934. He established the Institute’s Division of Chemical Research in 1939, was named assistant director in 1940, and became acting director in 1942. As president from 1957 to his retirement in 1968, he enlarged the Institute and enhanced its scientific stature and international presence.
Dr. Thomas was born in Renton, Wash., in 1903. He received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Washington in 1929, with a triple major in chemistry, mathematics and physics, and a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1933. His pioneering work on the chemistry of sea water became standard in the field of oceanography.
Dr. Thomas was a member of the boards of two Ohio universities and was awarded numerous honorary degrees. In 1967, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the University of Washington.
He was also devoted to the arts, serving on the boards of several artistic and musical organizations in addition to the Aspen festival.
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A skilled woodcarver and wood sculptor, he spent many retirement hours building violins, and he himself played violin and piano.
Dr. Thomas was preceded in death by his wife, Glorian Butler Thomas, an accomplished harpsichordist, and by his sister, Dorothea Thomas. He is survived by three children, Preston David Thomas of Bend, Ore., Nancy Glorian Thomas of Aspen, and Lawrence Thomas of Charlottesville, Va.; by eight grandchildren, and by seven great-grandchildren. A private memorial service will be held at a later date.