Herman Ammon, Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of Maryland in College Park, passed away on August 2, 2013 from metastatic melanoma.
Herm, the son of German immigrants, was born in 1936, in Passaic, N.J., and raised in Rutherford, N.J., where he graduated from Rutherford High School in 1954. He then went on to Brown University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1958, then to University of Washington, Seattle where he received both a Master’s degree and Ph.D. degree.
He began his teaching career in 1966 as an assistant professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 1969 he came to College Park and rose through the ranks from Assistant Professor to Professor in 1976.
Herm’s contributions to undergraduate education were extensive, landing him once on the cover of the Undergraduate Education Catalogue. Over his career Herm taught organic chemistry to thousands of Maryland students and was appreciated for his deep knowledge of organic chemistry and for his respectful attention to his students. Herm has also had the responsibility for recruiting and overseeing the approximately one hundred assistants each semester who help teach courses in the chemistry and biochemistry curriculum. Herm worked tirelessly to ensure that all Teaching Assistants, no matter their background, had sufficient knowledge of chemistry to TA effectively. No prospective teaching assistant could expect an assignment without passing Herm’s oral quiz on ammonia’s molecular formula and identification of inorganic acids.
In his long career at Maryland Herm published more than 175 journal publications, including one that went to press just one day before his death. Herm is known internationally for his research in the field of crystallography, a field that he entered in his graduate studies at the University of Washington. Herm was an early pioneer in crystal structure predictions for organic compounds through the use of computational chemistry. He developed a sophisticated suite of software for predicting molecular packing arrangements and crystal densities, with an emphasis on energetic systems, and his codes were successfully transitioned into highly scalable software for use by the Department of Defense through an award granted by the DoD High Performance Computing Modernization Program in the early 2000’s. Herman continued enhancement of the theoretical methods and capabilities of the software through an Army Research Office-sponsored MURI “Accurate Theoretical Predictions of the Properties of Energetic Materials”. The Ammon models remain widely used and cited throughout the energetic materials community.
Herm was as an avid exercise enthusiast, which extended from his cross-country running days as a Brown University undergraduate to his vigorous senior workouts at the Campus Recreation Center. He was also an extremely early riser; those arriving early for their 8 am classes could expect to encounter Herm already hard at work after he had completed his multi-hour workout.
A long-time resident of Lanham, Herm is survived by his wife of 55 years, Jane Ammon, and his adult children, Jennifer Thomas and David Ammon and three grandchildren.
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