Wednesday, May 26, 2021

 

We are heartbroken at the unexpected passing of Jorg Meyer, UCI’s glassblower. Jorg was not only a master craftsman, the very top of his craft, but a friend to many of us in the department.

Jorg was born during the bombing of Berlin in 1940.  He was a third-generation glassblower and even by the age of 17, was very accomplished in this art.  Not fully realizing what he was signing up for, he and a group of friends joined the French Foreign Legion at 17, an association that was short-lived when they jumped ship in the Suez Canal. Picked up by the British, he ended up on a ship bound for Australia where he served eventually not only as a glassblower but also as a rock crusher for the geophysics department at the Australian National University. He arrived in California in 1965 where he was interviewed and hired on the spot by the founding chemistry department chair, Professor Sherry Rowland, at the newly opened UCI campus. Early on he met Allison in the one campus gathering spot that existed in these early years, the Commons.  Allison was in the inaugural class at UCI and became his wife, life partner and soul mate for 50 years.

Professor Rowland hired Jorg, realizing then that so much of cutting-edge research depended on the availability of unique instrumentation and equipment, much of which requires glassblowing. However, Jorg did not just make the equipment, he was deeply involved in the design and usually had better ideas as to how to make it work than we did.  In the  video  https://vimeo.com/2719929 he talks about always looking for new challenges.  The last thing you wanted to ask Jorg to do (and the last thing he wanted to be asked to do!) was something trivial or routine.

Jorg loved the ocean, fishing, free diving and fast boats. When he could not get parts for his boats, he learned how to make his own and became a very accomplished machinist as well.  In the early 90s there was increasing realization of the fire danger of solvent stills and Jorg took an initial crude design from Dow Chemical and over 30 years progressively advanced and refined the design of stainless-steel solvent purification systems, improving their safety and footprint. He used his machining skills to construct many of these systems which he and Allison installed in numerous labs around the world. There is no question that many injuries and even deaths have been avoided by the use of these systems.

The department has become internationally recognized since 1965 and for many faculty, Jorg was essential for their research that brought accolades to themselves and the department. His contributions were recognized in 2014 by the prestigious UCI Lauds and Laurels Staff Achievement Award. For many years we would ask “what would we do without Jorg”.  Sadly, that day has come, but the tremendous appreciation for his support of the department research programs will continue on for a very long time.

As a person, Jorg was truly “larger than life”.  He was runner up in the Australian National Championships for spear-fishing and was the first person to ride a whale shark, which was captured by video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y9lMCgyMtk)  and appeared in 1969 in National Geographic. 

In Memoriam: Jorg Meyer