In memoriam: Rufus Lumry II

Rufus Worth Lumry II, a long-time professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Chemistry, died on March 23, 2013 in Minneapolis after a four-month illness. He was 92.

Born November 3, 1920 in Bismarck, N.D., Lumry received his bachelor of science degree in 1942 from Harvard where he majored in chemistry. During World War II, he was associated with the National Defense Research Committee. He returned to Harvard after the war and completed a Ph.D. in chemical physics in 1948. During this period, he developed his interest in enzymes.

Lumry came to the University of Minnesota in 1954 as an assistant professor of chemistry, and quickly rose in rank to become a full professor in l956. In the 1960s and 1970s, he spent time in leading laboratories in the field of protein chemistry in Denmark, Italy, Germany and Japan. Lumry was also involved in organizing major scientific conferences, including a Gordon Conference. He was an influential participant and organizer of the Red Cell and Hemoglobin Program Project Grant awarded to the University of Minnesota in the 1970s and 1980s. He was recipient of numerous grants from National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Navy.

For more than 50 years until his retirement in 1990, Lumry taught chemistry and spent his career conducting landmark research to explain how protein molecules work. He was the author of more than 130 publications in the field of protein biophysical chemistry. His remarkable career extended well beyond his retirement in 1990. His 1995 chapter about new paradigms of protein research and his 2003 paper on protein substructures were significant contributions to the field.

Lumry presided, until late 2012, over the Lumry Lunch Group of former students and colleagues who met monthly for more than 15 years. He was renowned for his humor, intelligence, and passion for science—truly one of a kind.

“He was passionate about science,” said George Barany, a University of Minnesota chemistry professor and long-time colleague. “His research made people think. He was very inspiring.”

Lumry is survived by three children, five grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at the Campus Club, Coffman Memorial Union, 300 Washington Ave. S.E., Minneapolis. Memorials are preferred to the Science Museum of Minnesota, Planned Parenthood, and the MN Network of Hospice and Palliative Care.