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Michael Detweiler, 1942 - 2005

Jim Van Nuland


Michael Burnside Detweiler died December 3 at 1:30 am after a long battle with prostate cancer.

The funeral was performed privately, with burial in Mission City Memorial Park, in Santa Clara, California.

Born February 2, 1942, Mike was a serious boy chemist already in high school, doing far more than the usual Gilbert Chemistry Set that was so popular back then.

He graduated from Santa Clara University with degrees in chemistry and physics. He described himself as a synthetic analytical chemist.

While working for SmithKline Instruments, he developed an improved hemoccult test, which has saved many lives by providing a reliable test for early colon cancer.

Later work with rocket propellants contributed to the present-day spacecraft steering systems.

Most recently he was a tutor who did not merely help his students pass their math, chemistry, physics tests, but far more importantly, showed them that this is really exciting stuff -- surely leading to careers in the sciences for some number of them.

Michael also had a lifelong interest in astronomy, and was for many years a member of the San Jose Astronomical Association. Though he did not have a telescope, he was especially welcome at public activities, due to his ability to explain things simply and clearly. For several years he was assistant director of the Ricard Observatory on the campus of Santa Clara University.

He was also a skilled pianist, specializing in Chopin's music. Though he did not read music, he played all the Chopin waltzes, and an ever-increasing number of the mazurkas and nocturnes.

Diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer about 2 years ago, he used up the arsenal of possible treatments, giving him additional time, but early Saturday morning, his time ran out.


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