University of California: In Memoriam, 1986

Warren Donald Kumler, Pharmaceutical Chemistry: San Francisco

Professor of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Emeritus

When Warren Kumler died unexpectedly at his desk on September 8, 1980, the San Francisco campus lost one of the academic giants who played a major role in bringing the School of Pharmacy from a non-accredited institution in the 30s to the consensus leader in the 60s. Among his intimates, Kumler was known as “Bud” but he was also dubbed “Tiger” by students and associates because of his gruff manner and his zeal for getting the job done quickly. He was the all-round academician who excelled in teaching, research and service.

Warren D. Kumler was born in Seven Mile, Ohio February 18, 1905. He attended Antioch College from 1923 to 1929 where his half-time cooperative jobs included work as a laborer in a machine shop, a pit-recorder in a steel mill, a calculating machine operator and a teaching assistant in the chemistry department of the College. He was active in athletics, winning letters in baseball and tennis, and was a member of the Antioch Players, taking leading parts in several productions including that of the captain in Pinafore. He received the B.S. with distinction in 1929 and the M.S. degree in 1930.

After graduating, he became an instructor in chemistry at Deep Springs College, and soon thereafter he was asked to assume the deanship. Deep Springs was distinctive in that the student body consisted of only 20 to 25 very bright young men, who were selected for their leadership and service. There he met G.N. Lewis, the head of the College of Chemistry in Berkeley, whose son was a student at Deep Springs. Kumler decided to complete his Ph.D. at Berkeley when Lewis offered him a teaching assistantship. After he received his Ph.D. in 1934, Kumler was recommended by Lewis to teach organic chemistry at the College of Pharmacy in San Francisco to which he devoted his entire academic career.

Kumler achieved international recognition for his work in determining the structure of organic molecules. His research was concerned primarily

with the use of physical methods to elucidate the structure of molecules of interest to both the biologist and physical-organic chemist. In collaboration with his students and colleagues, Kumler made significant contributions to mechanisms of drug action and to the measurement, interpretation and calculation of dipole moments. In 1942 he published an important paper with I.F. Halverstadt in which an equation was derived and a method devised for calculating dipole moments that is still in wide use today. Kumler's studies on the dipole moments and spectra of sulfanilamide compounds led to the elucidation of the electronic structure of these molecules and a hypothesis relating their chemical structure and biological activity. Together with T.C. Daniels, he investigated the relative importance of different wavelengths in causing sunburn and as a consequence a “Sunscreen Index” was devised to indicate the relative effectiveness of different compounds in screening out the rays that produce sunburn. Kumler's study of the figures of patterns that are produced in a grease layer between glass plates when pressure on the plates is released is an interesting example of a scientist functioning for no other reason than to satisfy his curiosity. He concluded that the patterns formed due to the fact that the molecules in the grease assumed an ordered orientation upon decompression.

Recognition of his creativity resulted in visiting research professorships at the California Institute of Technology, Toronto, Oxford, Imperial College and at Wisconsin where he was selected as the Knapp Memorial Lecturer. He was chosen by his peers in 1961 to be the fourth Faculty Research Lecturer, the highest honor the faculty can bestow.

Kumler taught organic chemistry from 1934 until a few years before he retired in 1972. His beginning organic chemistry course is well remembered by the students for the 8 a.m. weekly quizzes. The most frequent comment about the course was “tough but fair.” For over 30 years he also taught courses in organic qualitative analysis and in advanced organic chemistry, both taken mainly by graduate students.

He became one of the main architects in promoting the growth of graduate education and research in the School of Pharmacy and, in fact, on the San Francisco campus. He played an important role in the formative years of the graduate program in pharmaceutical chemistry. During his chairmanship of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry from 1959-65, he assumed a dominant role in formulating the expanding program of graduate academic studies and acted as graduate advisor to all graduate students.

In 1961 he became director of one of the first National Institutes of Health Training Grants in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1972. In the 1960s the department became recognized as one of the leading pharmaceutical chemistry departments in the world. He was appointed associate dean in 1964 and in that capacity he continued to deal with graduate and academic matters. His leadership

in obtaining national recognition for research activities in pharmaceutical chemistry formed the basis for a significant nation wide stimulation of research in graduate programs of schools of pharmacy throughout the United States. His tenacity in pursuing recognition from granting agencies of the federal government regarding the need for research support for the pharmaceutical sciences helped to establish U.S. Public Health Service training grants in pharmaceutical chemistry at schools of pharmacy. The long range support thus provided for graduate students in academic programs in pharmaceutical chemistry has permitted a significant expansion in the breadth and depth of research activities.

The extensive service record of Kumler reflects a most dedicated University servant. From 1951 to 1958 he served on the Budget and Interdepartmental Relations Committee and was its chairman for two years. Dedicated to the principle of academic self-government as embodied in the Academic Senate, he served as its head on the San Francisco campus from 1960/62. He was chairman of the Committee on Committees in 1964/65, vice-chairman of Graduate Council 1961/62; and a member of the Statewide Academic Council 1960/63, the Statewide Committee on Continuing Education and the Campus Coordinating Committee (1961/62) and the Building and Campus Development Committee (1961/62). He also was on many other University committees including the Academic Planning Committee, San Francisco campus (1960/62), and the Campus Planning Committee (1960/62). After he retired in 1972 Kumler served as Secretary of the Executive Committee of the School and as Secretary of the Faculty. He coordinated the revision of the Faculty Handbook, the By-Laws, and the Rules and Regulations of the School of Pharmacy.

Kumler was elected a fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences. He was a life member of the American Pharmaceutical Association and an emeritus member of the American Chemical Society.

Colleagues and students had a deep, abiding affection for Kumler. His rather brusque exterior hid a compassionate, friendly, loyal personality. He helped others willingly without complaint. One graduate student canonized the nickname “Tiger” by displaying a painting of the baby feline on his laboratory coat calling himself the “Cub.”

His life was enlightened and enriched by his family. Those who survive him include his good-humored courageous wife, Alice, two daughters, Archie and Joan, three grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

E. Leong Way John C. Craig Roger Ketcham

About this text
Courtesy of University Archives, The Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000;
Title: 1986, University of California: In Memoriam
By:  University of California (System) Academic Senate, Author
Date: 1986
Contributing Institution:  University Archives, The Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000;
Copyright Note:

Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commericially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user

University of California Regents

Academic Senate-Berkeley Division, University of California, 320 Stephens Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-5842