LEON OWEN (TOM) MORGAN
Dr. Leon Owen (Tom) Morgan, professor emeritus
of chemistry and biochemistry, died July 29, 2002, at the age
of 82. He was born in Oklahoma City on October 25, 1919. In 1941,
he graduated summa cum laude from Oklahoma City University.
He then entered The University of Texas at Austin and completed
a master’s degree in chemistry in 1942. In December of
that year he married Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Boyd of Terrell,
The World War II Manhattan Project brought Dr. Morgan to Chicago as a member
of the Metallurgical Laboratory (the famous MetLab) research group where
he worked under the direction of Nobel Laureate Glenn Seaborg on the process
chemistry of plutonium. During this time, he became a co-discoverer of
element 95, americium, and so joined the ranks of the very few scientists
who, in the course of human history, participated in the discovery of a
new element. After World War II, he completed his doctoral degree with
Glenn Seaborg at the University of California at Berkeley.
Dr. Morgan joined the chemistry faculty of The University of Texas at Austin
in 1947 and retired as professor emeritus in 1993. In all respects, he
was the complete faculty member who achieved distinction in teaching, research,
and university service. He was director of the freshman chemistry program
for many years and taught numerous upper level and graduate courses. He
also supervised the research activities of a significant number of graduate
and postdoctoral students, many of whom went on to distinguished scientific
careers in industry and academic institutions. He considered teaching some
40,000 students during his 45 years of active service as his most important
The discovery of americium early in Dr. Morgan’s research career
led to a number of important uses of this element in the industrial world.
One use that is found in many houses and other buildings is the smoke detector,
an often overlooked item that has saved many lives and prevented the destructive
damage caused by fire. Dr. Morgan’s later research interest involved
the use of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study the structures
and behavior of molecules in strong magnetic fields. This research helped
to establish the foundation for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which
has become one of the most important diagnostic tools in medicine and is,
in many respects, superior to the use of X-rays as a means of looking into
the human body to see what ails it.
During his career at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Morgan served
on and provided leadership to numerous faculty and university committees.
He also served as chairman of the Graduate Assembly (Graduate School) from
1978-80, and as graduate advisor in chemistry from 1975-78. He was well-known
for his keen interest in athletics and recreational sports for both men
and women. He served as a member of the University Intercollegiate Athletics
Council for Men from 1968-72 and was chairman of that council from 1979-87.
Following his retirement from faculty service, Dr. Morgan served as president
of the UT Austin Retired Faculty and Staff Association and as chairman
of the Advisory Committee to the UT Austin Faculty Center.
In addition to his career at UT Austin, Dr. Morgan had a long consulting
association with colleagues at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in
New Mexico. It was there that he developed a love of the Sangre de Cristo
Mountains and the hiking trails of other regions of New Mexico and Colorado.
Dr. Morgan’s life was filled with love of his family, love of the
science of chemistry, and devotion to the University. He is survived by
his wife, Betty, their four children and six grandchildren, and extended
family. He was greatly admired by all who knew him and was surely one of
the finest faculty members in the history of the University.
Larry R. Faulkner, President
The University of Texas at Austin
John R. Durbin, Secretary
The General Faculty
This Memorial Resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting
of Professors Alan H. Cowley (chair), Gerhard J. Fonken, and Norman Hackerman.