Troy - Robert (“Bob”) Reeves An early pioneer in atmospheric chemistry and Expert in Energy Storage Systems, 89 of Eaton Road of Troy died Friday December 27th, 2019 at Samaritan Hospital after complications from injuries sustained in a fall.
Born in Albany, NY, he was the son of the late Robert R. Reeves Sr. and Alice Vallee and husband of the late Rose C. (D’Alessandro) Reeves. He was predeceased by his son John reeves and a sister Virginia Colgan. He resided in Albany and later in Troy and Washington D.C. Bob earned his Bachelor’s degree in 1951, Master’s and Ph.D. in 1954 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Chemical Engineering. Bob had an early interest in math, science, and engineering that was fostered by his maternal grandfather, Armand Joseph Vallee of Albany who became an electrical engineer in 1905 and was awarded four U.S. patents that included the patent for the solderless railroad terminal (1933), the lantern bracket (1923) which enhanced track and railroad safety, the automatic block signal system for improved electrical circuits for railroad applications (1928), and the development of the highway crossing signal system (1932) which enhanced safety for the railroad industry. These systems were used extensively throughout the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Network and for the former New York Central Rail Road. These engineering experiences created the early beginnings that fostered four generations of engineers and scientists in the Reeves family.
Bob’s interaction with his grandfather created an interest in using science and engineering skills to solve human problems. These problem solving skills were further developed while a student at Rensselaer. After graduation with a Bachelor’s degree in 1951, Bob became a member of Dr. Paul Harteck’s staff and conducted early research efforts on the earth’s upper and lower atmosphere. In 1954, he was appointed a research associate and in 1960 a senior researcher and becoming a full professor in 1976. Beginning in 1954 he was working with NASA and the USAF on projects while at RPI related to reaction kinetics and chemical reactions within the earth’s atmosphere. This work became the basis of understanding the earth’s atmospheric chemistry. His research laid the groundwork for measuring and understanding the behavior of global warming.
He periodically presented the results of these research efforts to the New York section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and to the American Chemical Society. Some of the topics presented were related to the problems of understanding the earth’s atmosphere and the role played by the sun’s rays in understanding the chemical reactions that take place in the earth’s atmosphere.
During the 60’s and 70’s, there was a monthly meeting of college level institutions in the tri-cities area including RPI, Union College HVCC, St. Rose and Russell sage to discuss educational issues and current issues that affect the public and topics that should be incorporated into high school and college curriculums. Local school districts such as Troy, Albany, Schenectady and Cohoes participated in this program. Many of the high school students transferred into these local colleges. Bob was a routine guest speaker to discuss such topics as environmental pollution, energy concepts and engineering and scientific topics that should be incorporated into the high school and college programs.
Bob was meticulous in conveying the truth in each of his scientific investigations; a trait of integrity and character that he carried throughout his life. He had the ability to explain complex topics in simple terms with humor thus helping people understand complex scientific topics. While in grade school he would prepare mathematical problems each week for the Knickerbocker Newspaper that accompanied the crossword puzzle section. While at Rensselaer, he became an expert in mathematics, chemical kinetics and thermodynamics which he mastered by studying the three volume text written by Josiah Willard Gibbs who was the father of thermodynamics. While in his junior year at RPI, he taught chemical thermodynamics to graduate level students under Dr. Herbert Clark, who had earlier worked on the Manhattan Project and was on leave at the time from RPI to train South Korean engineers about nuclear safety after World War II.
In the 1960’s, Bob in conjunction with Dr. Harteck and Dr. Gene Manella discovered the cause of the plasma glow that surrounded John Glenn’s space craft as it entered the upper atmosphere in February of 1962. The cause was found to be the excitation of oxygen atoms over a nickel, chromium, cobalt, molybdenum, and titanium alloy surface, which he was able to duplicate in the laboratory. This same behavior was later observed upon the entry of the space shuttle through the earth’s upper atmosphere. NASA had recognized the group’s efforts in making this discovery and provided Bob with the in-flight photographs of the space shuttle that were taken upon its re-entry into the upper atmosphere which confirmed their findings. In 1967, he wrote sections in atmospheric chemistry for the Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Science and in the text book “Environmental and Industrial Pollution” by Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. Over his career he published 60 scientific papers and technical sections in textbooks.
As time went on, Bob made early experiments with the plasma etching process used in the semiconductor fabrication technology industry as well as with deposition techniques used to deposit metals at the molecular level onto a material substrate which were used in the fabrication of microchips.
In addition to his concerns with industrial pollution of the earth’s atmosphere, he was concerned with finding practical ways to generate and store energy. This led to experiments in his laboratory on the use of hydrogen as a possible energy fuel source, investigation into various types of batteries and storage systems. In 1977 and for a twenty year duration, Bob began work with the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in Washington D.C. in the chemical and thermal energy division.
His research led to contributing to the energy storage technology section of the “Handbook of Energy Systems,” published in 1985. While at the DOE, Bob became an expert in various areas of energy science and technologies and traveled the world on behalf of the US DOE to present and review energy technology that was in use around the world. He served as chairman of a national review committee for energy research held in Denver, Colorado. He remained chairman of the national review committee for over a multiple year period on behalf of the DOE.
Bob was an inspiration to his family, students, engineers, and scientists and for those who looked for truth and passion in their chosen fields.
Survivors include his son, Russ Reeves of Troy, NY; his daughter, Andrea (Bijan) Davari of Mahopac, NY; a daughter-in-law, Judi Reeves of Troy, NY and his grandchildren, Laurie (Ameya) Deoras of Charlotte, N.C., Rob (Carolyn) Reeves of Milwaukee, W.I., Danielle Davari of Chapel Hill, N.C., Stephen Reeves of Brooklyn, N.Y., and John Reeves of New York, N.Y.
Bob was very appreciative to the Davari Family, Judi Reeves, the Brogna Family, his grandchildren and great grandchildren, the Tozzi Family, the Colgan family, Mark Pollock, Dave and Terry Nelson, Jeff and Michelle Miner, his close lunch group: Yvonne Brignola, Bithie Mucstello, and Carolyn Testo and the members of The Rensselaer Community.
Special thanks goes to Barb Tozzi, who took care of Bob during the last several years of his life addressing his home healthcare needs that enabled him to stay at home for an extended period of time, to Dr. Jim Aram.
Relatives and friends may call at the Bryce Funeral Home, Inc. 276 Pawling Avenue Troy on Saturday, January 4, 2020 from 9-10:45 AM with a service to follow at 11AM with Rev. Edward Kacerguis, officiating.
Interment will be in St. Mary's Cemetery Troy.
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