Dr. Jon Torger Hougen passed away on January 28, 2019, in Taipei, Taiwan, where he was attending a meeting of the IAMS as a member of the institute’s Scientific Advisory Committee.
Dr. Hougen was born on October 23, 1936, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin as the oldest son of a doctor and a nurse, originally of Norwegian and Dutch ancestry. After completing his undergraduate in Oberlin College and the University of Wisconsin, he attended Harvard for his M.A. and Ph.D. In 1967, he was recruited by the National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology), where he spent the rest of his career.
Dr. Hougen’s research interests were in quantum mechanical and group theoretical calculations of quantities of molecular spectroscopic interest for various cases of interaction between rotational, vibrational, and electronic motion, with particular emphasis on rotational energy levels and rotational line intensities. In addition, he was known among his colleagues worldwide for his encyclopedic knowledge of molecular spectroscopy theory, as someone always willing to help and advise, and as a lover of languages. He spoke French, German, Czech, Japanese, and Chinese in addition to English. He particularly enjoyed any opportunity to work with young chemists, and he privately helped numerous young people with academic promise but limited means to attend college. Moreover, he was a staunch defender of good science and a foe of racism and injustice, and in later years he actively supported numerous progressive causes, journalists, and candidates who fought for social justice. He also loved to dance, particularly the polka.
In the course of his career, Dr. Hougen received numerous awards and honors for his scientific achievements, including the Coblentz Award, the NBS Silver Medal, the NBS Gold Medal, the Plyler Prize from the American Physical Society, the Lippincott Award from the Optical Society of America, and the Marcus Marci Award from the Czech Spectroscopy Society. The Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy dedicated special issues to him in honor of his 68th birthday in 2004 and his 80th birthday in 2017. He was a fervent attendant and participant at various spectroscopy conferences in the United States and globally.
Dr. Hougen had served as member of the Scientific Advisory Board for IAMS since 1996 and never missed a single meeting in 23 years. He loved this task so much that he contributed his last mission in life to IAMS.
He will be deeply missed.