Cecil Archer Rush, a retired government scientist who spent much of his life collecting scholarly books and art from Tibet and India, died of Alzheimer's disease complications Friday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Northwood resident was 90.
Born in Dillwyn, Va., he was the son of a letter carrier who recognized his child's love of learning. The young Mr. Rush was home schooled initially and supplemented his education by having books mailed from the Richmond public library. He earned a degree in physics and chemistry from the College of William and Mary and studied for a doctorate at the University of Texas in Austin until 1940.
He moved to Maryland and started work at the Army Chemical Center at Edgewood Arsenal, where he founded its Microchemical Laboratory and studied trace samples too small for conventional analysis.
His wife, the former Elizabeth Anne "Betty" Morgan, said he saw World War II coming and took the job at Edgewood because he "wanted to help."
While at Edgewood, he studied sculpture at night at Maryland Institute College of Art and was awarded a Reinhart Prize for his sculpture of a naiad riding a dolphin.
Over the next several decades Mr. Rush combined interests in collecting art, books, fossils, minerals and seashells. He visited Fourth Avenue booksellers in New York and eventually assembled a library so large he bought a second rowhouse to hold it.
He insisted his collections -- including bronze art from India and Tibet -- be kept in climate-controlled rooms. He books included the classics of Western literature, the sciences, occult studies and exotica.
"He was one of the most knowledgeable persons I have ever met in the arts and sciences," said John Gilmore Ford, a friend, fellow collector and Walters Art Museum trustee. "His passion for the arts of India, Nepal and Tibet helped motivate my early collecting in the field. He was a true bibliophile, collector and raconteur."
Another friend, Douglas Hamilton Jr. of Butler, described Mr. Rush as "enjoying the intellectual and aesthetics pursuits of life to the fullest. He was very generous with his knowledge and encouraged you to cultivate and refine your tastes and interests."
In 1954, Mr. Rush presented a paper at a scientific crystallography convention in Paris on "Moving Bubbles in Negative Crystals." In 1956, he attended an international symposium of microchemists in Lisbon. Family members said the president of Portugal hosted a reception for his group.
He attended international symposiums of microchemists held at Pennsylvania State University. He retired in 1972. He was an emeritus member of the American Chemical Society and was a member of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society.
He and his wife traveled extensively in Europe and visited art museums. They also traveled to Egypt, India and Nepal.
Plans for a service are incomplete.
In addition to his wife of 51 years, survivors include a son, Gordon David Rush of Hollywood in St. Mary's County.