Harold William Schmitt was born in 1928, in Seguin, Texas to Ben E. and Gertrude T. Schmitt. Ben was Manager of Sequin Milling Company, a flour and feed mill in Sequin. The family move to Dallas, TX in 1944, where Harold graduated from North Dallas High School in 1945. In 1946, Ben and John Kern established and ran Schmitt and Kern, Inc, their own brokerage and merchandising company. Ben worked until he was 87 and died just short of 101.
Harold attended SMU for two years, where he studied engineering, then switched to physics. He was a varsity tennis player at SMU. After his sophomore year, he transferred to University of Texas at Austin. He received a bachelor’s in mathematics in 1948, a BS in physics in 1949 and a master's in 1952. His masters thesis, supervised by Wilson Nolle, was titled, Ultrasonic-wave Study of the Liquid-crystal Transition of Cholesterol Benzoate. He completed his PhD in 1954. His PhD research, officially supervised by Robert N. Little, was done at Los Alamos where Robert Leachman and Al Graves were the direct supervisors. The dissertation was entitled, Energy Loss Studies of Fission Fragments.
He married Jonell Freda Britsch in 1952. Jonell was from Hondo, TX. She had attended Texas Lutheran College and University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a bachelors degree in journalism. She worked for the Austin American Statesman newspaper and the University News and Information Service. At Oak Ridge, Jonell served as the entertainment editor of the Oak Ridger newspaper.
Following the completion of his degree, Harold moved to Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he did research in nuclear physics, particularly neutron capture studies and mass distribution asymmetries in nuclear fission. He worked for Oak Ridge for nineteen years, authoring or coauthoring over 90 publications. He is the holder and co-holder of four patents.
It was there that he and his colleagues started the successful company ORTEC. He was president and chairman of ORTEC from its founding in June, 1960 until August, 1961, continuing as chairman until 1964. The company was sold to EG&G, a New York Stock Exchange company, in 1967. He later went on to run Environmental Systems Corporation eight years. He next founded Atom Sciences with Sam Hearst. In 1989, he was appointed a University of Tennessee-Knoxville industrial engineering professor. He also headed a new program there, Office of Industry Programs and Technology Transfer, a unit of the university Office of Research.
Throughout his career, he has served as a consultant and/or board member for a number of corporations and non-profit organizations, including the Oak Ridge Civic Music Association, Knoxville Opera Company, Knoxville Symphony Society, Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, Oak Ridge Institute for Continued Learning, Technology for Energy Corp., Clinch River Home Health Inc., and others.
His hobbies are piano, pipe organ, tennis, and hiking. Harold and Jonell have three daughters and seven grandchildren. Another relative of Harold’s is his cousin Roland Schmitt, also a UT Physics graduate and celebrated physicist.
Harold William Schmitt Photo Album