Herman L. Ammon

Herman L. Ammon, who taught chemistry at the University of Maryland, College Park for nearly five decades and was also an expert in the field of crystal structure, died Aug. 2 of a stroke at Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham.

He was 76.


"Herm was a professor of chemistry at the University of Maryland, who taught thousands of Maryland students during his 45 years on the faculty, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in medicine, government and industrial organizations," said Janice E. Reutt-Robey, chairman of the department of chemistry and biochemistry at Maryland.

"He was also a prolific researcher who collaborated extensively with scientists at the Army Research Laboratory and other federal defense laboratories to develop quantitative tools to predict the properties of energetic materials," said Dr. Reutt-Robey.


The son of German immigrants — his father was a Buick service manager, and his mother was a homemaker — Herman Louis Ammon was born in Passaic, N.J., and raised in Rutherford, N.J., where he graduated from Rutherford High School in 1954.

After earning a bachelor's degree in 1958 from Brown University in Providence, R.I., he earned his master's degree and a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1963 from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Dr. Ammon was an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he taught from 1966 to 1969, when he joined the faculty at College Park.

Dr. Reutt-Robey said Dr. Ammon's contributions to "undergraduate education were extensive," and resulted in a cover article in Undergraduate Education Catalogue.

Dr. Ammon's specialty was organic chemistry, which he "taught to thousands of his Maryland students and was appreciated for his deep knowledge and for his respectful attention to his students," said Dr. Reutt-Robey.

"One of the many things about Herm was that he was extremely kind when interacting with the undergraduate students. He basically put them first," she said.

"He could be crusty at times with his colleagues and administration, but he was always very considerate and never like that with his students," said Dr. Reutt-Robey. "He always had their best interests at hand. 'How do you keep students moving forward?' He was a master at that."

Dr. Ammon also had the responsibility of recruiting and overseeing the many assistants who helped teach courses in the chemistry and biochemistry curriculum.


"No prospective teaching assistant could expect an assignment without passing Herm's oral quiz on ammonia's molecular formula and identification of inorganic acids," said Dr. Reutt-Robey. "He made sure they had enough knowledge to teach those courses," she said. "He'd go from lab to lab to make sure everything went smoothly. He was almost like a mother hen."

Dr. Ammon was admired for his ability in organizing the schedules of nearly 100 teaching assistants as well as those of graduate students who were required to teach.

"Herm's last teaching contribution, and one in which he was very proud, was his Carnegie Foundation-funded efforts to increase student performance in organic chemistry courses," said Dr. Reutt-Robey.

Dr. Ammon was known internationally for his research in the study of the structure of crystals.

"He was an early pioneer in crystal structure predictions for organic compounds through the use of computational chemistry," said Dr. Reutt-Robey. "The Ammon models remain widely used and cited throughout the energetic materials community."

Dr. Ammon and a colleague, James Stewart, another crystallographer, established the first X-ray Crystallography Center at College Park, which was a forerunner to today's center. The center draws students and researchers from across the world, said Dr. Reutt-Robey.

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"Herm was all about work and was basically working all of the time. He was always experimenting about how he could make things better," said Dr. Reutt-Robey.

"He helped organize the summer organic chemistry classes and was here the Friday before he had his stroke," she said.

Dr. Ammon enjoyed mountain climbing, skiing and bicycling.

"He also loved reading and was always reading three or four books at a time. He never watched TV," said his wife of 55 years, the former Jane Winslow.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday at the University of Maryland Chapel, 7600 Baltimore Ave., College Park.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Ammon is survived by a son, David Ammon of Bowie; a daughter, Jennifer Thomas of Waldorf; and three grandchildren.