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Dr. Joe Louis Franklin - 1906-1982

Joe FranklinJoe Franklin was born in Natchez, Mississippi, but became a naturalized Texan early in life. He received his degrees from the University of Texas (B.S. 1926, M.S. 1930 in chemical engineering and his Ph.D. in 1934 in chemistry, where he was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 1973. Franklin spent the early part of his career in research and development with the Humble Oil and Refining Company (later Exxon) in Baytown, Texas. After 1949, his focus shifted from applied research toward a total dedication to fundamental science. While at Humble, he introduced the Franklin group-equivalent method of estimating the standard enthalpies and free energies of formation of molecules, radicals and ions, and began the fundamental studies of gaseous ion chemistry, for which he was best known. This work involved many of today’s eminent mass spectroscopists, and in 1957 resulted in the well known book “Electrical Impact Phenomena and the Properties of Gaseous Ions,” coauthored with F. H. Field.

In 1963, Franklin accepted the position as the Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry at Rice University. His reputation attracted scholars at all levels – graduate and postdoctoral students, and faculty members. He and his students not only continued the research started at Humble, but also branched out into other areas, such as ion-molecule reactions, ion-kinetic energy studies and photoelectron spectroscopy. By his example, Franklin made a significant contribution to Rice’s transformation into a premiere science and research institution.

Franklin authored four books and published 170 papers, of which 110 were published while at Rice. Many of these publications represent truly significant and enduring contributions to science. Perhaps of greater significance is the impact he had on the hearts and minds of the people with whom he came in contact. He exuded a genuine warmth and concern for people which, combined with his intellect, enthusiasm and broad interest, enabled him to provide a unique degree of scientific stimulation, guidance and inspiration to many.    

View a list of past Franklin memorial lecturers.