Gertrude Neumark Rothschild BC '48 PhD '51 was the first woman to hold a named chair in the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, being named Howe Professor Emerita of Materials Science and Engineering in 1995. She passed away on November 11, 2010, at age 83, after a long illness.
Gertrude Neumark graduated summa cum laude from Barnard in 1948, received a Master of Science degree in chemistry from Radcliffe (the then women's college of Harvard) in 1949, and, in 1951, received a Ph.D. in chemistry from Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Prior to joining the Columbia faculty, Dr. Neumark worked at Sylvania Research Laboratories (1952-1960) and at Philips Laboratories from 1960-1985. She was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1982.
Dr. Neumark was made an Adjunct Professor at Columbia in 1982 and began instructing full-time in 1985. She was appointed Howe Professor of Materials Science and Engineering in July 1999. In 2005, the Henry and Gertrude Rothschild Professorship was established at Columbia University in recognition of her contributions to science.
Dr. Neumark received an honorary degree from Columbia University in May 2008 and also was selected as a recipient of Barnard’s Distinguished Alumna Award for 2008 for her outstanding achievements in materials science and engineering. In 2008, Philips Electronics created a Professorship in Columbia’s Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics in The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science in honor of Professor Neumark Rothschild’s pioneering role as a woman engineer.
It was during her research work at Columbia Engineering that Dr. Neumark conceived the doping process that has been the basis for devices improving the quality of consumer products ranging from flat screen TVs to mobile phone screens. Commercial uses for blue and shorter-wavelength lasers range from increasing the sharpness of laser printers to increasing the information storage capacity of DVDs. In addition to these lasers, her patented processes led to blue and ultraviolet LEDs (light-emitting diodes), which are now used for computers, traffic lights, instrument panels, as the background color for mobile-phone screens, in multicolor displays, flat screens and in numerous other lighting applications.
Professor Neumark was cited as one of 83 women whose work appears on the archival website maintained by UCLA, entitled “Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics.” She also was listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, and American Men and Women of Science. She is the author of more than 140 publications and a contributor to McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science and Technology. She served as a panelist for the National Research Council.