Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
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Donald Frederick Othmer was born on May 11, 1904 to Frederick G. Othmer (ca. 1878-1964) and Freda Darling Snyder Othmer (ca. 1881-1969), in Omaha, Nebraska. Don was the second of five siblings: Mildred (1902-2001); Kenneth (1907-1959); Marian (1909-1992); and Harold (1913-1928). Don Othmer attended the Armour Institute in Chicago and the University of Nebraska for his undergraduate studies, and received his M.S. (1925) and Ph.D. (1927) at the University of Michigan. He began his career in chemical engineering at the Eastman Kodak Company, where he worked on distilling acetic acid, used to make acetate safety film, and developed the "Othmer still," a laboratory device for the study of distillation still in use today. In 1932, Othmer became a professor of chemical engineering at Brooklyn Polytechnic, where he remained for over sixty years, serving as department chairman for twenty-five years. In 1950, Don married Mildred Jane Topp, also from Omaha; the couple had no children. Friends of Warren Buffett, the couple's investments were extremely profitable, and upon their deaths (Donald in 1995 and Mildred in 1998) they bequeathed large sums to many charities and nonprofit organizations, including the Chemical Heritage Foundation, resulting in the Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History.
Marian Othmer Schultz was also involved in the scientific community and studied anthropology at the University of Nebraska. In 1931, she married her college sweetheart Charles Bertrand (Bert) Schultz (1908-1995), a geologist and paleontologist who studied under famed vertebrate paleontologist Erwin Hinckley Barbour (1856-1947). The couple conducted field work together, including work on the Scottsbluff Quarry excavations in Nebraska. Bertrand went on to become a renowned scientist in paleontology, prehistoric animals, and early man, and director of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences. Marian and Bert Schultz had two children, Tranda and Donna, who they raised at their home in Nebraska called "Hilltop."
Mildred Othmer Peterson married Howard Peterson, a professor at the University of Nebraska, right after receiving her bachelor's degree from the same school. She went on to work as a librarian, lecturer, and writer for newspapers, magazines, and journals based in Chicago. Mildred was extremely well-traveled, visiting 255 countries in her lifetime, and worked towards improving international relations through education. The Mildred Othmer Peterson papers are held by the Chicago History Museum.
This collection contains black and white and color photographs of Donald Othmer, his family, and their homes from the early 1900s to 1989, with the bulk dating from the 1920s and 1930s. Both formal portraits and snapshots document Don Othmer and members of his immediate family, including his parents Frederick (Fred) and Freda, brother Harold, sisters Mildred Othmer (Peterson) and Marian Othmer (Schultz), brothers-in-law Howard Peterson and Bert Schultz, and his maternal aunt Ada Snyder. The photographs of Don primarily date from his younger years, and his wife, Mildred Topp Othmer, is not pictured. Several photographs show the Othmers' homes in Omaha, Nebraska, their country home in Coudersport, PA, and Don Othmer's New York apartment. A few photographs document Marian Othmer Schultz receiving an achievement award on behalf of Don in 1989. Several photographs have hand-written notes on the back written by donor Tranda Fischelis identifying individuals pictured; these notations are included in the container list descriptions. Exact dates were also taken from these notes; circa dates were determined by the archivist. This collection also includes a folder of ephemera that contains photocopies of articles about Don Othmer and his siblings, a program from Marian Schultz's memorial service, and a copy of the article "Expanding the World's Resources" written by Donald Othmer.
Donor was the niece of Donald Othmer, namesake of the Othmer Library.
Gift of Tranda Fischelis.
Processed by Jennifer Nieling. Object identification numbers were assigned to individual photographs.
- Science History Institute Archives
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- Finding aid created by Jennifer Nieling and encoded into EAD by Melanie Grear. Edited by Alex Asal in 2023.
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