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Obituary for Norbert Muller


Norbert Muller, age 85, of Edwards, Missouri, passed away Wednesday, December 3, 2014 at Hermitage, Missouri. He was born on January 25, 1929, in Hamburg, Germany, the son of Werner and Marianne (Hartstein) Muller. He lived in Germany until the age of 10 and moved to England where he lived for a year. He then came to the United States and made his home in New York and later in California.

He attended Hollywood High School, then the University of California-Berkley as an Undergraduate and received his doctoral degree from Harvard. He had also been a scholar of Oxford University and a member of their rowing team. He worked as a professor of Physical Chemistry at Purdue University until he retired in 1994.

He had many interest and talents. He had appeared in several movies, including White Cliffs of Dover. He enjoyed planting trees and has planted several hundred on his farm. He had been involved with a horses for the handicap program. He also had a passion for finding a common ground for the Jewish and Christian Religions. For many years, Norbert was involved with the Deer Creek Fire Department and had written many grants for the fire department for equipment for the fire station.

In 1958, Norbert was united in marriage to Barbara Peterson in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Unto this union, eleven children were born. Fourteen years ago, they moved to their farm near Edwards, Missouri.

Professor Dor Ben-Amotz remembers some of Dr. Muller's scientific discoveries:

"Nobby Muller’s research has had a great impact in advancing the understanding of liquids, and in particular the interactions between oil and water, including complex systems such as the micelles formed from surfactants in water. For example, in 1990, just before he retired, Nobby published an article in the Accounts of Chemical Research entitled “Search for a Realistic View of the Hydrophobic Effect.” This article proved to be tremendously influential, as evidenced not only by the fact that it has so far been cited well over 300 times, but also by the fact that the views he expressed in this article are now often referred to simply as the “Muller Model” for hydrophobic hydration.

As another example of Nobby’s scientific discoveries, early in his career, Nobby published a series of papers in which he used fluorine NMR, with selectively fluorinated surfactants, in an effort to answer an important question regarding how much water penetrates into the hydrophobic interior of a micelle. Nobby’s beautifully conceived and executed experiments revealed that “...there is considerable penetration of water into the interior of the micelles...” [Muller and Birkhahn J. Phys. Chem. 71, 957 (1967)] and more specifically that “… in the micelles all fluorine atoms are exposed to water to some extent, with the average environment becoming progressively more aqueous as one moves along the chain toward the ionic end…“ [Muller and Simsohn, J. Phys. Chem. 75, 942 (1971)].

The penetration of water into the interior of micelles and biological membranes remains a subject of current research. Mounting evidence, including work currently being done in my own research group, suggests that Nobby’s careful early work came closer to the right answer than did numerous later experimental and theoretical studies that reached various, and often conflicting, conclusions."

Source: Reser Funeral Home, Dor Ben-Amotz

Dr. Muller at Purdue May 1970

Dr. Muller at Purdue
May 1970