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JOSEPH TALBOT KUMMER

1919–1997

Elected in 1986

“For pioneering the field of ionic conductors, discovering the sodium-sulfur battery, and for seminal work in catalysis and in combustion in fuel cells.”

BY MORDECAI SHELEF

JOSEPH TALBOT KUMMER was born on October 21, 1919, in Catonsville, Maryland, the youngest child of Frederic Arnold Kummer and his wife Marion (nee MacLean). His father came from an established Baltimore family. The father earned a civil engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was chief engineer of American Wood Company and later general manager of Eastern Paving Block Company. The elder Kummer then switched to a full-time literary career and became a well-published author of novels, short stories, screenplays, musical librettos, and so forth. In addition, he was an exhibited painter of marine scapes. As will be noted below, Joe Kummer inherited both the engineering genes and the inventiveness.

All of Joe’s education was in Baltimore: His high school was the Baltimore Polytechnic (1932–1936), followed by a B.E. in chemical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1941 and a Ph.D. from the same institution in 1945. The historical pedigree of his teachers deserves mention. His Ph.D. advisor was the eminent surface scientist and catalytic chemist Paul Emmett (a member of the National Academy of Engineering [NAE]). Emmett himself studied under Sir Hugh Taylor at Princeton, while Taylor’s scientific progenitor was the kineticist



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