Carl Henry Oppenheimer was born on November 13, 1921, in Los Angeles, California. He received a B.A. (1947) and M.A. in Medical Microbiology (1949) from the University of Southern California. He later attended Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California where he received a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Oceanography in 1951. He received Fulbright Fellowships in both Norway (1952-1953) and Italy (1978).
Oppenheimer began his career as an Assistant Marine Biologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California after receiving his Ph.D. He then went on to serve as a senior research scientist at the Pan American Petroleum Corporation Research Center before arriving at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas in 1957, where he taught marine microbiology and conducted research. In 1961, he went on to pursue his career as professor at the Institute of Marine Science, University of Miami and then as director and professor at the Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Oceanography at Florida State University.
In 1971, he returned to UT as director and professor at the Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas until 1973. While serving as director, he was instrumental in improving the physical facilities on campus by having a new laboratory building constructed along with a new dormitory, an 8-unit apartment building for graduate students, and a physical plant support facility. He took charge and purchased a marina alongside the ship channel that would be used as UT’s boat basin. He played an important role in establishing guidelines for the E. J. Lund fund which was created to support Ph.D. candidates.
After resigning his position as director, he served as professor of microbiology and marine studies (1973-1992) and research scientist (1973-1980) at the Institute. While in association with the Marine Science Institute, he served as vice president for research and development at the Alpha Environmental Corporation in Austin, Texas from 1986 to 1990. He later established his own company, Oppenheimer Environmental Company, in which he served as an environmental consultant from 1990 until his death. He retired in 1992 and was awarded the title professor emeritus from UT.
Dr. Oppenheimer’s early research interests included work on how marine bacteria are affected by temperature and pressure. He was a student of Claude E. Zobell, distinguished scientist at Scripps, who influenced the study of deep sea bacteria and high pressure adaptations. His interest in microbiology would lead him to later study hydrocarbon pollution and the use of bioremediation.
While at UT, Oppenheimer participated in coastal management projects such as the National Science Foundation RANN project in 1976. He also participated in NATO research cruises to determine hydrocarbon ecology of the North Sea. He and his colleagues, in association with Gulf Universities Research Consortium, developed ENVIR, an information system used to interpret environmental information for uses such as coastal zone management and water quality. The focus of this project was on the Gulf of Mexico. Throughout his career, Oppenheimer participated in projects funded by government agencies such as The Office of Naval Research, National Academy of Sciences, President’s Oil Spill Panel, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Texas Water and Land Commission. He has also served as a member or chairman of various government agencies such as the International Conference on Environmental Data Management for NATO. He has served as a U.S. representative for the NATO Advisory Panel on Eco-Sciences.
Oppenheimer’s early career led up to determining ways to clean up hydrocarbon pollution using microbes. He is known to be one of the world’s founding fathers of bioremediation. He was instrumental in persuading Texas to allow for the first bioremediation open water testing in the U.S. in which he used his manufactured microbial consortium known as the Oppenheimer Formula.1
This product is made up of safe aerobic and microaerophilic microbes, specific for breaking down hydrocarbons. Through the use of his bioremediation products and techniques, he established ways to clean up polluted waters and restore these diverse ecosystems. He founded Oppenheimer Biotechnology, Inc. in 1990, located in Austin, Texas, which manufactures bioremediation products that have been used throughout the United States and the world. His product is able to successfully and effectively clean up a wide range of contaminants in environments.
Throughout his career, Oppenheimer wrote eight books and over 300 scientific papers covering subjects on marine science, hydrocarbon pollution, and environmental management. He served as a member or chairman in numerous biological, environmental and marine science professional organizations.
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
Office of the General Faculty
Biographical sketch prepared by Professor Lee Fuiman, director, Marine Science Institute, and posted on the Faculty Council web site
on April 26, 2010. Additional information can be found in the Office of the General Faculty, WMB 2.102, F9500.
Oppenheimer Biotechnologies from http://www.obio.com