Articles

    Jeanette Gecsy Grasselli Brown

    October 2008:

    Jeanette Gecsy Grasselli BrownJeanette Gecsy Grasselli Brown, prominent analytical chemist, successful infrared and Raman spectroscopist, world renowned authority on its applications, and excellent laboratory manager, was inspired by her high school chemistry teacher to secure an education in chemistry. She “fell in love with chemistry”. Jeanette recalls that “chemistry presented an opportunity to learn about the world around us: What happens when the sun comes up in the morning, what happens when you put a cake in the oven, what happens when you mix A and B and get C. With chemistry, you could unravel these mysteries and also have the opportunity to do something that might impact mankind.” Her chemistry teacher suggested she consider majoring in chemistry at his alma mater, Ohio University.

    Jeanette’s education was in the Cleveland school systems, followed by a B.S. in chemistry from Ohio University (she was the only woman in her chemistry class) and M.S. from Western Reserve University. Her career was with Standard Oil of Ohio (now BP), in Cleveland. She started as a junior chemist in 1950 and by 1985 was director of corporate research of BP America. At the time of her hiring, the facility had about 25% women scientists, most recruited from Western Reserve (now Case Western) chemistry department. Even by today’s standards, the laboratory employed many women scientists. Jeanette was given the task of looking for use of the infrared spectrometer in an industrial laboratory for problem solving. The spectrometer was perfected by the military during World War II and was made available for commercial use. Her work included being a member of a team that developed the Sohio Acrylonitrile Process for making the world’s acrylonitrile, a monomer for polymers for synthetics used in clothing, carpeting and other products.

    Jeanette has received numerous awards for her accomplishments during her more than thirty-eight years in analytical chemistry. She received the Garvan Medal (1968), Fisher Award in Analytical Chemistry (1993), and the Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences (1999). She is the first woman inducted in the Hungarian and Austrian Chemical Societies. Jeanette is also the first woman elected to the Ohio Science and Technology Hall of Fame (1991). Though recently retired, Jeanette continues to support careers in the sciences, especially for women. In addition, she continues to inform the public about the value of science and technology.

    She is the author of about eighty articles and eight books, in vibrational spectroscopy and analytical problem solving. She has received twelve honorary doctorates, been a speaker at numerous scientific conferences and has spoken to the general public about science, no less than about 500 times, discussing the application analytical science to problem solving, especially in forensics.

    Jeannette is rooted in Cleveland. She grew up in a predominantly Hungarian neighborhood, born to parents who had come to the United States from Hungary. Her father worked in a foundry making sand castings using steel for parts for equipment—she was fascinated by the intricacies of the process. During high school, Jeanette had the opportunity to accompany her father many times to watch the casting process. Her parents valued education – the door to opportunities. From both parents, especially her father, Jeanette got the message: “Cultivate your curiosity and do your best and good things, good opportunities, will happen to you” and from her mother she received “along with appreciation of learning, an appreciation for art and music.”

    Sources:

    Scott Stephens, Cleveland Plain Dealer: Immigrants’ kids: Nation’s brainy superstars, Tuesday, July 20, 2004

    Profiles of Ohio Women, 1803-2003, Jacqueline Jones Royster, Ohio University Press, Athens, 2003, p. 173

    Interview, September 10, 2003, http://www.benrose.org/MythBusters/mb_browns.cfm

    CWRU Magazine, Kristin Ohlson, Winter 1999, p. 28

     

    –  Written by Inara Brubaker