James F. Roth of Warminster, PA, died on his 96th birthday, December 7, 2021.
Born in Rahway, NJ, Jim was a member of the first graduating class of the Bronx High School of Science, graduating at age 15. He enlisted in the Navy at 17 and was sent to school at the University of Pennsylvania and then Midshipman School at Columbia University. While Jim was serving as chief navigator on LST 477 during the battle of Iwo Jima, the ship was blasted with a 500 lb. bomb and hit by a Kamikaze plane.
After being discharged from the Navy with the rank of LTJG, Jim returned to college, earning a B.S. in Physical Chemistry from the University of West Virginia and a PhD from the University of Maryland.
During his career with Monsanto in St. Louis, MO, and Air Products in Allentown, PA, where he served as chief scientist and director of corporate research, Jim received recognition for his achievements as the principal inventor of processes for the commercial production of acetic acid and the production of linear olefins used to make biodegradable detergents. He received numerous awards, including the Kokes Award from Johns Hopkins University, the Houdry Award from the Catalysis Society of North America, and the Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society. He received the first award ever given by the American Chemical Society for Achievement in Industrial Chemistry. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering and was cited by the Chemical Heritage Foundation as one of the leading American chemists of the twentieth century. Jim was the 1988 recipient of the Perkin Medal for his achievements in catalytic research, considered the highest recognition for chemical achievements in the U.S.
When he wasn’t working, he and his wife Sharon (Mattes) Roth shared a 52-year adventure of world travel, symphonies, museums, opera, and fine dining. They spent their first 18 years of retirement in Sarasota, FL, and the next 14 years in independent senior adult communities in Dallas, TX, and Warminster, PA. Jim was lovingly cared for in his final year by his wife Sharon and caregiver Daionna Combs.
He is survived by his wife; daughter, Sandy Freeman (Mickey) of Allentown; sons Ed Roth (Sue) of New City, NY and Larry Roth (Colleen) of St. Louis, MO; step-son Ladd Hirsch (Cindy), 10 grandchildren; and 8 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his step-daughter, Lisa Phillips (Jim), and his sister, Phyllis Davis.
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