On Easter Sunday, 20 April 2014, the micromounting world lost a giant. After a long period of declining health, William “Bill” A. Henderson Jr. passed away in Madison, Connecticut, surrounded by his loving family. Bill and his wife, Audrey, were married for nearly fifty-four years and had two children, Amy Joy and William Arthur III, as well as four grandchildren.
Bill was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, on 5 October 1932 and grew up north of Boston. He earned his BA in chemistry in 1954 at Harvard University and his MS and PhD (1959) at Yale University. At Harvard Bill rubbed shoulders with two famous American mineralogists: Profs. Clifford Frondel and Cornelius Hurlbut. In Connecticut, Bill was mentored in micromounting by yet another pioneer in mineralogy, Neal Yedlin. At one time Bill curated the Lazard Cahn micromount collection at Yale. He also taught geology to budding earth-science teachers at Fairfield University.
By trade, Bill was a renowned chemist who made many discoveries and was granted numerous patents during his illustrious and successful career. He spent thirty-two years at American Cyanamid working as a bench chemist—management did not appeal to him. Due to severe hearing loss, interacting with others, especially in groups, was difficult. Bill remembered the whole experience as being enjoyable and interesting because, every year or so, he had to learn a completely new area of chemistry.
Bill's papers and patents were in fields as varied as the nucleophilicity of phosphines; a sunburn dosimeter that tells one when to get out of the sun; adhesives for fiberglass insulation; stickum for grinding wheels; hydroxamated polymers for use as set retarders for cement; reversibly photochromic imaging systems; the synthesis of tetraalkylcyclo-polyphosphines; photostabilizers for sheep dip and high impact, rubber reinforced polymers; photosensitizers for generation of singlet oxygen; light-activated herbicides; nucleophilic decay rate modifiers for polymeric implants; the world's first patent for chemiluminescent immunoassays; the synthesis of primary aralkyl urethanes; thermal stabilizers for miticides; and many others. Bill was named an Associate Research Fellow at American Cyanamid and twice received the company's prestigious Scientific Achievement Award. Even so, Bill noted that he wrote more papers on mineralogy than on chemistry.
Considering all of his professional accomplishments, it should be no surprise that in his mineral room Bill was also building his own equipment to assist in the identification of minerals. He built a one-circle goniometer to measure the angles of crystals under a microscope. He used many techniques and kept copious notes in his endeavors to identify unknown minerals. Bill also built his own stand to determine magnetic properties of minerals and, with his exemplary woodworking skills, designed and built his own mineral cabinets, making the templates and happily sharing his plans with anyone who expressed interest. He accumulated a suite of oils and took great pride in having taught himself to use a polarizing microscope.
Bill was a prolific writer for the Mineralogical Record. Many of us were first introduced to him when he was a guest author for Vi Anderson in her regular Mineralogical Record micromount column. Later he took the helm with photos of interesting specimens obtained through his frequent swaps around the globe. It should be noted here that Bill loved to swap minerals, and he kept a huge collection of labeled duplicates specifically for his extensive trading worldwide. Their localities were not critical; he just enjoyed interesting specimens from wherever they were found.
From my meetings and correspondence with Bill, it was apparent that his favorite studies included the minerals created from Roman slag on the coasts of Italy and Greece where new species formed as a result of the combination of seawater and the roasting of ores to extract metals hundreds of years ago. He also enjoyed the mineralogy of the Palabora mine in South Africa, and he had many fond memories of collecting in Italy with Roberto Allori. Crystallography was another of Bill's fascinations, and he had a suite of specimens that exhibited the Eschelby twist, mostly in millerite and pyrite. The incredible variety of structures in micro-sized fluorites was yet another aspect of minerals that he especially liked.
Bill may have been most respected, however, for his knowledge, experience, and skill in the identification and study of the minerals of Mont Saint-Hilaire. His notes in determining the identities of unknown minerals displayed the detail and precision of his observations. Each specimen had an index card with all of his findings—notes on how he eliminated possible identities one by one, alongside an accumulation of a suite of properties and information to assist himself and others.
Bill always enjoyed sharing his knowledge. He was the guest speaker at the initial Micromounters of New England Symposium in 1982. Even then any question was an opportunity for a teaching moment. With his considerable experience, it seemed that questions posed to him had already been considered, researched, and tested, and he often had an amusing anecdote to accompany his lessons. His patience, as I learned firsthand, was immeasurable.
Bill was recognized for his lifetime of work with minerals when he had a mineral named for him: willhendersonite, which he first discovered. Bill was inducted into the Micromounters' Hall of Fame for the year 1997, and he was awarded a lifetime membership in the Micromounters of New England for his contributions to mineralogy.
Bill and Audrey were avid field collectors and took frequent road trips with Charlie and Marcelle Weber and other mineralogical illuminati during the golden years of micromounting in the 1960s and '70s. Other hobbies they enjoyed included bird watching, canoeing, hiking, reading, woodworking, traveling (Kenya, Japan, England, Italy, Switzerland, the Caribbean, and Costa Rica), vegetable and flower gardening, and propagating azaleas.
Bill was a gentle soul, eminently intelligent and quite proud of his family. He will be missed by all who knew him.
Joe Mulvey is a member of the Micromounters of New England.