UF’s longest-serving faculty member remembered

In In Memoriam, News by Jen Ambrose

Dr. Seymour S. Block passed away on August 11th, 2014 at the age of 96. A dynamic innovator, he was the university’s longest-serving faculty member. He will be dearly missed at the college and by his many former students and colleagues.

Dr. Block came to the University of Florida in 1944 when – due to World War II – the enrollment on campus had dropped to 700 students. He taught chemical engineering for the next 50 years, watching the campus grow and enrollment rise to 40,000. Even after his retirement in 1995, he stayed active as a professor emeritus, visiting his office daily until two months before his passing.

His research led to innovations in safely canning meat, growing mushrooms commercially in sawdust and compost, and creating disinfectants that are catalyzed by sunlight. He held many patents, consulted with government and industry, and edited five editions of the book Disinfection, Sterilization and Preservation.

Dr. Block had a great interest in Benjamin Franklin. He wrote several books and articles about him and The History Channel interviewed him about Franklin’s inventions. Dr. Block taught UF’s first environmental studies group and he took a leadership role in several environmental groups and initiatives throughout his life. He also worked to safeguard academic freedom and equal rights for his colleagues at a time when both were threatened.

Dr. Block and his wife Gertrude were married 72 years, and enjoyed playing tennis together on the UF tennis courts. Block was known to do backflips off the high dive well into his 80s.

A memorial service for Dr. Block will be held at the Chemical Engineering Building on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 at 10 a.m. All are welcomed to attend.

Read more about Dr. Block’s life and family in the Gainesville Sun.

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