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Celebrated R&D columnist and editor, Fred Jueneman, dies at age 84

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 1:33pm
Paul Livingstone

Frederic B. Jueneman in 1995. Image: Dwardu Cardona; Source: Frederic B. JuenemanAnalytical chemist, author and R&D Magazine’s longest-tenured columnist and contributing editor Frederic B. Jueneman passed away recently in his hometown of Newark, Calif. An industrial analytical chemist by trade, Jueneman’s first column appeared in Industrial Research, R&D Magazine's prior title, in April 1971. For the next 30 years, he regularly wrote columns packed with fresh and insightful ideas, earning a dedicated following among R&D’s readership.

Born May 25, 1929, in Chicago, Jueneman’s army family moved constantly during his youth. He attended five different high schools, spent two years in the U.S. Army and graduated with a degree in music theory and composition and a minor in chemistry from San Francisco State Univ. He joined FMC Corp. as a chemist in 1955, and during his 35 year career there he became known as the resident mad scientists, or “RMS”, for his predilection for experimentation.

Jueneman’s connection to publishing extended beyond serving as R&D Magazine’s contributing editor. He was also associate editor of Kronos and Aeon, a journal that discussed science, history and myth, and he was consistently on the adjudication panel for the R&D 100 Awards, which recognize the top 100 products developed by academia, government agencies and industry. He was also a longtime member of the analytical committee of Semiconductor & Equipment Manufacturers International (SEMI), and he published two book-length essays in speculative science, "Limits of Uncertainty" (1975) and "Raptures of the Deep" (1995). At the time of his passing he had another in progress: "Jousting at Windmills; Memoirs of a 'Sigh-entist'".

In addition, he was the principal editor of two historical works, "Secret Voyages of Marco Polo", by American author Gunner Thompson, and "The Baltic Origins of Homer's Epic Tales", by Italian author Felice Vinci, as well as an editor of an encyclopedia "Star" series of paleontological/ historical nature by Canadian author Dwardu Cardona.

Jueneman’s career was highlighted by his adventurous and iconoclastic approach to science, which was reflected in his wide-ranging interests (he has written several classical works of music, including two publicly performed symphony suites) and his deep library of essays and editorial. He had a penchant making strikingly unusual or surprising conjectures regarding our relationship with the natural world, many of them rooted in observations of fundamental physics. In 1996, he wrote a column titled “Had Your Radiation MDR Today?” that conjectured that the natural radiation our bodies absorb from the natural environment--some 15,000 particles per second--may actually have beneficial stimulating effect on the body’s metabolic processes.

Many of his ideas also stretched the imagination. In his book “Raptures of the Deep”, Jueneman postulated that significant global catastrophes, like meteor strikes or other cataclysmic events, could conceivably change how the natural world works, even to the point of altering the decay rate of radioactive elements, thus casting a huge shadow of doubt on our perception of historical events in the distant past. Could the history of dinosaurs have overlapped with humans? Perhaps an extinction event reset the “atomic clocks” we use to guide our understanding of past events.

Such ideas sparked vigorous and interest among R&D’s readership, and to this day many readers continue to request reprints or sources of his editorials. His series of features on scientists who didn’t the credit they deserved, in particular, touched a nerve among researchers and continue to be cited.

Jueneman died on July 29, 2014. He was happily married for 45 years to Montyne Ann nee Martin, who passed away in early 2000. He has three children, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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