Rossman F. Giese

Published August 17, 2020

Rossman F. Giese Jr., professor emeritus in the Department of Geology, died Aug. 1 at home after a long illness. He was 84.

Giese earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University by the age of 26. He began a 50-year career at UB in 1966 after serving as a senior physicist in the research and development division of the Carborundum Company in Niagara Falls, and while working as a senior cancer research scientist at the Center for Crystallographic Research at what was then Roswell Park Memorial Institute.

An expert in clay mineralogy — he served as president of the Clay Minerals Society as well as chair of what was then the Department of Geological Sciences at UB — Giese developed a method to measure the surface tension of fine particles that had previously eluded scientists.

He was awarded two patents associated with attaching antimicrobials to clay minerals to produce a pathogen-killing material. A prolific researcher, he published 143 peer-reviewed articles, and with the late UB faculty member Carel J. van Oss, co-authored the book “Surface Thermodynamic Properties of Clays and Related Minerals.”

Giese considered his work to restore the newly discovered historic Erie Canal terminus — the Commercial Slip — to be one of his outstanding achievements. When Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) wanted to rebury the slip and build a replica next to it, Giese, concerned that the arguments against restoration of the terminus were not based on sound science, intervened and examined the rocks that lined the slip. His findings contradicted ESDC’s theory that the rocks, if exposed to Buffalo winters, would rapidly deteriorate, thus saving the historic site that is part of Buffalo’s Erie Canal heritage.

Family member say Giese was a man of few words, but he was well-loved for his witty sense of humor. He enjoyed reading, fine art, classical music and the opera, and was fluent in French and German. As a young man, he enjoyed rock climbing, bicycling and skiing, and later in life became an avid sailor, racquet ball player and accomplished wood-worker.

Giese donated his body to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Contributions can be made in his memory to WBFO or WRVO, both National Public Radio stations, or to Buffalo’s Irish Classical Theater.