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Alexander Lowy Papers

What’s online?

The entire collection is scanned and online.

What’s in the entire collection?

This collection consists of 14 of 16 patents that Dr. Lowy secured for his research, some memorabilia from his college years, and materials related to the dedication of the Alexander Lowy Memorial Seminar Room in Langley Hall on May 25, 1959.

About Dr. Alexander Lowy

Dr. Alexander Lowy was a pioneering organic chemist and scientific visionary who mentored many worthy students and inspired them to embark on their own personal journeys in chemistry and research. Born in Hungary in 1889, he immigrated to America with his family in 1901, arriving at Ellis Island. He received his early education in the New York City public schools, then matriculated to Columbia University, earning his Bachelor of Science in 1911, his Master of Arts in 1912, and his Ph.D. in 1915. That same year, be married Dora Landberg.

Dr. Lowy's association with the University of Pittsburgh began in 1918 as an assistant professor of organic chemistry. In 1921, he was promoted to a full professor, and served the University in that capacity for the remainder of his career.

In 1919, he helped to found the Psi Chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu at the University, and served as its faculty advisor for over 20 years. The mission of Sigma Alpha Mu is to foster the development of collegiate men and alumni by instilling strong fraternal values, offering social service opportunities, and teaching leadership skills. In 1931, the new pledges presented Dr. Lowy with a Scholarship Cup. Dr. Lowy stated in his acceptance speech, "I accept this cup but on the condition that it be presented to the entire alumni body. There is no one man that is the fraternity, and for that reason, I accept this cup on behalf of the entire fraternity." The cup then became known as the Inter-Fraternity Scholarship Cup. Dr. Lowy soon became involved with the national organization of Sigma Alpha Mu, serving on its governing body, the Octagon, in 1935, and as National Scholarship Chairman in 1937. Following his death, Sigma Alpha Mu's Inter-Fraternity Scholarship Cup was renamed the Dr. Alexander Lowy Scholarship Cup, which was then awarded annually to one of the chapters until the mid-1960s. In honor of Dr. Lowy, the fraternity reinstituted this recognition of academic excellence in his name in 2011.

Dr. Lowy was internationally recognized for his expertise in electro-organic chemistry, coal combustion, protective chemistry, explosives and disabling chemicals. His wide-ranging research included everything from explosives and tear gas for the World War II effort, to chocolates and flavors for toothpaste. Throughout his career, he authored nearly 100 publications and received 16 patents. He co-authored An Introduction to Organic Chemistry, a college textbook which was widely used for decades.

During his tenure at the University, Dr. Lowy was a beloved mentor who gave freely of his time and advice and showed a genuine and sincere interest in his students. Over 50 of his students later made significant contributions to the field of chemistry during their careers.

Dr. Lowy died on Christmas Day in 1941 at the age of 52. As noted by one of his students, his untimely death "left in the hearts of all who knew him, a gap that cannot be filled." In loving memory of Dr. Lowy, his wife, Dora, and their son, Dr. Alexander Lowy, Jr., made a gift to the University in 1958 to establish the Alexander Lowy Memorial Seminar Room (the "Lowy Room") located in George Hubbard Clapp Hall, which was formally dedicated on May 25, 1959, in a ceremony presided by Chancellor Edward H. Litchfield. That room was later moved and now resides in Eberly Hall; it was officially dedicated on May 4, 2012.

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