George Warren Reed, Jr., 94, died at home in Chicago of natural causes on August 31, 2015.
Born in Washington, D.C., on September 25, 1920, he was the eldest of George Warren Reed and Eleanor Belle (Newman) Reed’s three children. He attended public school in D.C. Graduating from Dunbar High School in 1938 and he continued his education at Howard University (B.S., 1942 and M.S., 1944). He was one of a dozen African-American scientists employed on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University, Oak Ridge Laboratory and the “Met Lab” at the University of Chicago. In 1945, he married Selina Maxwell Edwards of Wilkes Barre, PA, and after the war moved to Chicago to work for Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago where he held the position of senior research associate when he retired in 1990.
Through his definitive work at Columbia with William J. Knox and Harold Delaney on the measurement of fission yields in uranium-235 and thorium-232, Reed was among an inner circle of nuclear scientists attached to the Manhattan Project. The group went on to foster the post-World War II revolution in geochemistry and geophysics and included such other notables as Enrico Fermi, Julian Goldsmith, Harrison Brown, Willard Libby, Mark Inghram, S. Chandrasekhar, Joe and Maria Mayer, Clyde Hutchison, and Antony Turkevich.
While earning his Ph.D. (1952) at Chicago, Reed collaborated with Clair Patterson in dating the origin of the solar system. The focus of his early research was meteoric science. With the commencement of the NASA Apollo Program, he became a member of the Lunar Samples Analysis Planning team and his research shifted to the analysis of trace elements in soil samples brought back from the first expeditions to the moon (1969-1972). Through his radiochemical development and application of neutron activation analysis combined with stepwise heating and leaching procedures in the laboratory, Reed created a powerful tool for the measurement of very low concentrations of trace elements. In the Chicago community he was active in the Independent Voters of Illinois and First Unitarian Society, and on the boards of the Chicago Citizens School Committee, Adler Planetarium, Chicago Children’s Choir and the progressive newsletter Towards Freedom.
Reed is a recipient of the Howard University Distinguished Alumni Award, the American Foundation for Negro Affairs Distinguished American Award, the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, the NASA Group Achievement Award, and the Percy L. Julian Award.
Reed is survived by his children Mark Morrison-Reed and his wife, Donna, of Toronto; Philip A. Reed, and his partner, Janice Levandoski, of Ventura, CA.; son-in-law, Stan Sullivan of Oakland; Lauren A. Reed and her husband, Shawn Glanton, of Santa Cruz, CA; grandchildren, Charlotte and Elliot Morrison-Reed; Jordan Reed who, with his wife DeeAnn, loving cared for his grandfather over the last two and half years of his life; and Michelle Sullivan. He also leaves behind two great granddaughters, Rosalie and Lilyanna Reed, and his brother, Lloyd H. Reed.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Selina E. Reed, and daughter, Carole.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26 at the First Unitarian Church of Chicago, 5650 S. Woodlawn Ave.