June 15, 1912–June 16, 1990
BY JAMES P. SHOFFNER
HERMAN BLOCH WAS BORN in Chicago to Aaron and Esther Bloch, who were immigrants from the Ukraine. He attended Senn High School on Chicago’s north side, graduating in 1929 with high honors. According to his principal, his grade point average of 97.41 was the highest ever achieved by a Senn graduate. On the basis of this outstanding record he was granted a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Chicago, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1933, with a degree in chemistry and physics. He continued at the University of Chicago for graduate school, receiving his doctorate in organic chemistry in 1936, with Prof. Julius Stieglitz as his thesis advisor.
After receiving his doctorate he joined Universal Oil Products Co., a research company specializing in the development of refining processes and products for the petroleum industry. In 1940 he married Elaine Judith Kahn, also a University of Chicago graduate. Herman and Judith had three children, Aaron, Janet L., and Merry D., of whom I will say more later.
Herman joined Universal Oil Products (UOP) during a period when the petroleum industry—while not exactly in its infancy—certainly was not that far advanced technologically. Most of its products were developed by thermal crack-