Memoir

Marshall Fixman

Colorado State University

September 21, 1930 - February 27, 2016


Election Year: 1973
Scientific Discipline: Chemistry
Membership Type: Member

Marshall Fixman was a highly original theorist who brought a deep understanding of chemistry and physics, formidable mathematical ability, and profound insights to the fundamental problems in condensed-matter physical chemistry. His research over 60 years addressed two major areas—polymer theory, including polyelectrolytes and DNA; and critical phenomena. Equally at home with theoretical methods and computer simulation, he was able to combine both approaches in his work.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Fixman became interested in chemistry through a traditional chemistry set, and by the time he reached 12 was determined to be a chemist. He attended nearby Washington University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and then went east to pursue graduate work in physical chemistry at MIT, where his research adviser was Walter H. Stockmayer.

After receiving his PhD, Fixman went to Yale in 1954 to work with John G. Kirkwood, one of the preeminent practitioners of statistical mechanics, but was interrupted by the draft. He served two years in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, and then as an instructor at Harvard University. From there, Fixman spent two years (1959–1961) in Pittsburgh at the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research, where he did research on polymer theory and the thermodynamics of polymer solutions.

Fixman then moved to the University of Oregon, where he had been appointed professor of chemistry and director of the newly established Institute of Theoretical Science. At Oregon, He expanded his interest in polymers to include nonequilibrium polymer problems; a major theme for the remainder of his career was polymer dynamics. In 1965, Fixman returned to Yale University, where he had been appointed professor of chemistry and would eventually become the Eugene Higgins Professor of Chemistry. There he developed a sophisticated extension of his general theory of polymer dynamics, and also made notable contributions to the theory of highly anharmonic crystals, liquid crystals, and the helix-coil transition.

In 1979, Fixman moved to Colorado State University as a professor of chemistry and physics. In 1986, he was named University Distinguished Professor, CSU’s highest faculty position. Along with continuing his research, he served as associate editor of the Journal of Chemical Physics from 1994 to 2006.

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