Index of Memorial Resolutions and Biographical Sketches

divider line


divider line

View in portable document format.




The special committee of the General Faculty to prepare a memorial resolution for William C. “Bill” Gardiner, professor, chemistry and biochemistry, has filed with the secretary of the General Faculty the following report.


John R. Durbin, Secretary
The General Faculty


William C. “Bill” Gardiner, 67, died at Brackenridge Hospital, Austin, Texas, on November 17, 2000, following a tragic bicycle accident. He was born on January 14, 1933, in Niagara Falls, New York, to William C. and Charlotte Gardiner.

Professor Gardiner was educated in the public schools of Niagara Falls and received an A.B. degree from Princeton University in 1954, graduating summa cum laude. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi at Princeton. Gardiner attended Heidelberg University and Göttingen University in Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship from 1954 to 1956. He received a Ph.D. in 1960 from Harvard University under the supervision of George Kistiakowsky. After appointments as laboratory or research assistant with Union Carbide Corp., Max-Planck-Institute für Physikalische Chemie, and Harvard University, Professor Gardiner joined the faculty of The University of Texas in 1960 as instructor, having been recruited by Chairman Norman Hackerman. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1962, associate professor in 1967 and, professor in 1972. Gardiner received a second Fulbright Fellowship and was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1975, a Humboldt Senior Scientist Award in 1979, and a Thyssen Fellow in 1982. Professor Gardiner was the Lady Davis Visiting Professor at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, in 1985 and received the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Award in 1991. He was a member of a number of important scientific organizations including the American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Combustion Institute.

During the course of his forty years as a member of the UT faculty, Bill Gardiner achieved international recognition for his contributions to the science of combustion chemistry, as demonstrated by a large body of work published in prestigious journals, his books, and his numerous national and international awards. Professor Gardiner pioneered new concepts for understanding the mechanism of combustion processes by analyzing the complex interactions between elementary chemical reactions and physical transport processes such as turbulent flow, heat conduction, and diffusion. He approached this important problem by drawing from concepts in mathematics, physics, biology, and chemistry. Part of his interdisciplinary work and his careful studies of the rates and products of many important chemical reactions in combustion chemistry are described in his well known books and are valued by colleagues worldwide. The publication in Scientific American of two articles in two entirely different fields, combustion chemistry and molecular evolution, in a two-year period clearly demonstrated the breadth and depth of Gardiner’s scholarship. He carried out his research with colleagues in many countries and influenced the lives and careers of undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and senior scientists all over the world. He was also famous for his teaching, which combined tough standards and nurturing delivered in his completely unique style. He cared deeply for his students.

His friends and colleagues will always remember Bill Gardiner for his cheery ways, his striking sense of humor, and his love of the outdoors. He and his wife Regina enjoyed numerous hiking and biking adventures. Bill was a competitive cyclist, often participating in distance events such as the MS 150 mile ride from Houston to


Austin. He also enjoyed skiing, bowling, rock and mountain climbing, camping and kayaking, and he was an active player with the Lazers soccer team.

Professor Gardiner is survived by his mother, Charlotte Gardiner; his wife, Dr. Regina Monaco; his daughters, Grace Baker of Houston, Charlotte Gardiner of Austin, and Amy Chanmugam of Austin; two grandsons, Rhett and Merritt Baker; his brothers, Peter Gardiner of Sunrise, Florida, and John Gardiner of Oak Park, Illinois; and by his first wife and the mother of his daughters, Gertraut Schimanski Gardiner; as well as by a large extended family and countless former students and colleagues.

UT President Larry Faulkner, a former student of Gardiner, remembers him as a superb teacher – one of the best he ever had. Faulkner says, “He had a remarkable grasp of the material he was teaching as well as an exceptional way of presenting it….Gardiner was a scholar of exceptional quality, and I think you can’t lose a person of that nature without being diminished.”

Bill’s life was, of course, much fuller and richer than described by the brief summary provided above. In an attempt to paint a more complete picture, we wish to share our personal and individual remembrances of Bill. What follows was written without prior consultation among the three of us. The picture of our colleague that emerges is one of great intellect, boundless energy and enthusiasm, passion for learning and teaching, and genuine care for his family, friends, colleagues and students. We find it remarkable that these elements of his character were evident to all of us, representing three generations of physical chemists who worked closely with Bill over the course of his nearly 40 year career in the department.

Stephen E. Webber
I first encountered Bill Gardiner while interviewing at Texas and even had the opportunity to meet his family, because I was invited to his home for dinner rather than the more usual dinner out with a few of the departmental members. It was a pleasant affair but there was an undercurrent of serious intellectual discourse and intensity, which was always present in any of Bill's activities, including his serious lifelong involvement with bicycling. The University of Texas Department of Chemistry was a different place in those days, and Bill stood out as being considerably less laid back than most of his contemporaries. Before I came to Texas I was able to spend a year in London as a postdoctoral fellow and had the opportunity to have lunch with W. A. Noyes, Jr., who had arrived at Texas a few years earlier after a long and very impressive career at the University of Rochester. He had taken charge of recruitment of physical chemists for the UT (and, in fact, our guest for lunch in London was a potential recruit). Over lunch Noyes said, indiscreetly perhaps, that Gardiner was "one of the good ones." I later understood what that meant: the laid back young faculty I had visited with during my interview were gone when I arrived, having been denied tenure, which probably was an effect of Noyes' demand that excellence in research or research potential be the primary criterion for tenure. From my point of view, the recruitment efforts and decisions about retention as influenced by Noyes were instrumental in the ascent of the Department of Chemistry (and Biochemistry) in the national rankings that started in the mid-1960s. Bill Gardiner was then one of the "young guys" who contributed strongly to this increased visibility and national impact. However, Bill's contribution to our international impact may have been stronger.

Bill had been a student in Germany, studying with Manfred Eigen, where he acquired a fluent command of German, a second major field of research (the application of biophysical approaches to the study of molecular evolution), and a German wife (I'm not sure that these all occurred at the same time...). Bill was someone who enjoyed the international aspect of science, especially the opportunity for people to study in other countries, where there was so much to be learned beyond the specifics of the science itself. It seems clear that his own positive experiences in Germany influenced this interest considerably. It was always the case that his lab became one of the homes away from home for many of our foreign students, especially Europeans. Many of these students continued to visit or hang around Gardiner's lab even if they were working with other professors for their Ph. D. Bill's influence on our Ph. D. students extended far beyond those in his own research group.

Bill was a rigorous thinker and was quick to disarm any wishful thinking about the proper explanation of some research results. He could almost always be counted on to ask the first question after a seminar, and the question was often just a little more pointed than the seminar speaker might have hoped for. He also wanted our classes to be rigorous and challenging to even the best students. As a consequence he often went into topics or approaches to a subject that were "not in the book." This did not make him the most popular teacher in our


department even though even the most critical students had to admit that his lectures were clear and spirited, albeit rather advanced. As a consequence, our best undergraduate and graduate students tended to think of his classes as among the best they had at UT, and our mid-range to weak students would try to arrange their schedules to avoid his section of physical chemistry. Eventually this was not possible as he was the one to develop a section of the physical chemistry sequence designed for biological science majors, including biochemistry, and those students were obliged to take it. Many of us later built on this foundation to produce the kind of course that would be the most useful to life sciences/biological sciences majors.

Bill was also among the first members of our department to take advantage of the potential of PCs on science, designing a course which allowed students to use these new tools for everything from quantum mechanical calculations to Web page design to the use of mathematical programs to solve more complex but realistic physical chemistry problems. All this seems routine now, but Bill started it, so far as I know.

I also have a strong recollection that Bill was one of our faculty to speak up strongly in favor of the split of Natural Sciences and Liberal Arts. This split was very controversial when it happened, and it was against the will of a strong dean, John Silber, who was not above punishing a faculty member whom he considered not quite up to his standards (that is, didn't agree with him). Bill was typically outspoken about something he felt deeply about, and he didn't think that the administrative structure as it existed at that time was ever going to allow the sciences at UT to grow to their potential. I think he was probably correct.Alan Campion

From my perspective, chemistry at UT experienced two distinct transitions in quality and expectations; the first was described above, and I was privileged to join the faculty in the early 1980s, during an era in which the University underwent another major transformation and the Department of Chemistry joined the ranks of the top 20 nationwide. It is clear that meeting Bill during our interviews left indelible impressions on the three of us. My guess is that this was a common experience for all prospective faculty who met with him. Most scientists know a great deal about a few things or a little about a lot of things; Bill knew a lot about a lot of things. Until you realized that there was no malice intended, in the precision with which he asked questions and the degree to which they were on target, even in fields far from his own, the effect was intimidating. I left my interview wondering why I hadn’t thought through my research proposal more carefully.

As well known as Bill was for his research, I found his interest in developing new graduate courses over the past decade or so to be really inspiring. He was always known for being a superb classroom teacher (demanding but helpful). Bill developed and taught two new graduate courses that I believe are among the most important contributions that have been made in graduate education in several decades. As mentioned above, computational chemistry had been the province of specialists until a few years ago. The combination of supercomputer workstations with the availability of accurate, robust, and user-friendly commercial software has made computational approaches an important addition to the chemists’ toolkit. Bill recognized early on, however, that without proper instruction these tools could end up being like Nintendo (his term), fun but not useful (or even misleading) for serious science. He created a hands-on course in computational chemistry that reviewed the basic quantum and statistical mechanics thoroughly and then went on to show students how to use the most powerful and popular software efficiently and intelligently.

The second course that Bill created, and several of us team-taught with him, was a graduate course in experimental physical chemistry. Such a course would have been unnecessary (even unthinkable) 30 years ago, where all of us were expected to learn the nuts and bolts of designing, building, and conducting experiments. Although we had the help of professional technicians, we were all expected to know elementary machining, glassblowing, and electronics. The evolution of physical chemistry over the years has resulted in the use of sophisticated instrumentation (molecular beams, ultrahigh vacuum, and femtosecond lasers, for example) the construction of which is beyond the capability of most research groups. Consequently we have all relied increasingly on commercial instrumentation to carry out our work. Essentially all of these instruments are computer controlled, removing the experimentalist one more step from the experiment. Although this development was recognized, at least anecdotally, by several of us, Bill was the first to take action and to propose that we teach our students what I have come to call the essentials of measurement. Led by him we developed a course that included statistics, noise, electronics, optics, spectroscopy, lasers, and surface analysis –


the modern tools of our trade. Bill’s goal was to get the students to understand that measurement is the result of the interaction between the instrument and the physical system of interest, and that the numbers we get come from someplace fundamental and not “the computer.” It’s especially tragic to me that we were just completing our first experiment with this course when Bill died. I think that his enthusiasm for the idea was catalytic, and I sincerely hope that one of us will carry on his lead in this important endeavor.

John F. Stanton
I first met Bill Gardiner on a cold morning in January of 1993. I was in Austin for a job interview, hopeful that I would receive an offer from the department and largely oblivious to the unusual nature of the overnight dusting of snow the city had received. It was the second day of my interview, the dreaded "chalk talk" in which job candidates are forced to think on their feet and present an overview of the research directions they would pursue as an assistant professor. My "chalk talk" was attended by remarkably few faculty, only one of whom had not interviewed me the previous day. The unfamiliar face was the source of the most in-depth and penetrating questions, and he came up to me afterwards and we talked about a subject that was obviously near and dear to him: the reactions of radicals at high temperatures and the associated mechanistic pathways. It was immediately clear to me that this man was extremely bright and enthusiastic about science as well as having a very dry and wonderful sense of humor, the sort of colleague that I really wanted to have. It was Bill Gardiner.

Two stories come to mind when I think of my late friend. The first occurred about two months after my arrival at UT in the fall of 1993. I was sitting in my office one early afternoon after a lecture when Bill came by and asked me to lunch. We walked out of the building, and drove to the Eastside Cafe in his jalopy. Bill revealed a lot about himself that afternoon. He definitely obeyed a strict diet, eating only the healthiest foods. He enjoyed "testing" me, asking me lots of questions that he either knew the answer to or had a strong opinion about (scientific, historical or political). Perhaps he did this to everyone. I don't know. However, I am pretty sure that I passed his test, at least in the sense that Bill and I had similar opinions about a lot of things. Until his death, Bill was by far the faculty member who most frequently knocked on my door and came in for a chat. I learned a lot in those discussions, and we formed a strong bond. The last thing I remember about that lunch was the Einstein story. Apparently, Bill once sat next to him in a movie house in Princeton while Bill was in school and Einstein was in his latter years at the Institute for Advanced Study. Bill told me that the white-haired gentleman had arrived with his daughter to watch a double feature. The first was a movie of the Disney genre, the second something more serious. I think it was a Western, but I am not sure. Evidently, Einstein enjoyed the Disney movie very much, but muttered something in German to his daughter shortly after the second show had begun and they left the theatre. The image of Einstein watching a Disney movie with a gleam in his eye still makes me smile.
The second story took place at Bill's apartment in South Austin. He invited my family and me to brunch one Sunday afternoon. Other members of his family were there, as well as some students from his research group. At the time, my eldest daughter was three and the younger girl was a newborn. By and large, when children are invited to dinner parties or other social functions organized by academicians, it is something of a drag for them. Not this time. Bill paid more attention to my three-year-old than anyone else who attended the brunch. After her five minutes of interest in the food, Bill got down on the floor with her, showed her things and seemed to genuinely enjoy himself. A bit later, he returned from his bedroom with two beautifully wrapped presents for my girls! I realized at that time that my initial take on Bill—that he was an undeniably bright and enthusiastic scholar in addition to being a wonderful human being—was right on the mark. My daughter probably has no recollection of that day, but the stuffed animal that was inside the wrapping paper still has a place in her room. Just as Bill has a place in all of our hearts.

This memorial resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting of Professors Alan Campion (chair), Stephen E. Webber, and John F. Stanton.

Distributed to the dean of the College of Natural Sciences, the executive vice president and provost, and the president on September 2, 2003. Copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500. This resolution is posted under "Memorials" at: