Remembering Alfred Saupe (1925-2008)
Saupe, the grandfather of liquid crystals, died August 3, in
Germany, where he was born in 1925.
his doctorate from the University of Freiburg in 1958. This work
resulted in the most successful mean-field theory
of the isotropic nematic transition, known as the Maier-Saupe theory.
He also proposed
the technique of liquid crystal-NMR which is currently used to
decipher the structure of complex molecules by placing them in
crystal matrix, and observation of the optically induced reorientation.
In 1968, he
moved to Kent State University, where, in 1969, he published
another seminal work in which he not only proposed the
first valid microscopic model of blue phases, but also predicted
the helical structures of chiral SmC materials and laid down
the elastic theory of tilted smectic phases.
Not less important
was his discovery of the biaxiality in lyotropic nematic liquid
crystals in 1980, and his subsequent continuum theory
of these materials.
Since the 1990s, he has been working on ferroelectric liquid crystal
materials and polymer liquid crystal composites, leading to the
explanation of the piezoelectricity and of the microscopic structures
of the polymers in liquid crystals. Saupe retired from the university
with emeritus status in 1992 and moved back to Germany.
retiring and while suffering from Parkinsons disease, Saupe was
actively involved in working on the K13 problem, and
on a textbook (One-and two-dimensional fluids, co-authored by Antal
(Tony) Jakli) aimed for graduate students and novices in the science
of liquid crystals, published in 2006. He also continued to maintain
a close collaboration with researchers in Kent. Saupe received
numerous awards, such as the Nernst Prize in 1974, Humboldt Prize
in 1987, Kent State Presidents Medal in 1992 and the Freedericksz
Medal in 1999. He was also one of the first honored members of
the International Liquid Crystal Society in 1998.
Nobel Laureate, P.G.
de Gennes wrote about Al: “I personally
met A. Saupe at a rather late stage, when I first visited the Mecca
of Liquid Crystals around 1970, Kent State University. Saupe was
then famous for his rigorous studies of alignment via nuclear resonance,
but what I remember is the good will of my hosts, G. Brown and
A. Saupe, facing a young theorist who knew very little about chemical
physics and even less about liquid crystals. Their open minds,
their will to show me the maximum, their sense of cooperation,
impressed me enormously. I shall not forget those happy years.” (P.G.
de Gennes, Paris, February 1996)
Saupe is survived
by his loving wife, Brigitte, and three children Anja, Welf
and Arne who understood him even when he was overwhelmed
with work or with the disease. He will be missed not only by his
family and friends, but also by the entire liquid crystal community.