Dr. William Hillig
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Obituary of Dr. William Hillig

Dr. William Bruno Hillig passed away on September 17, 2017. The son of

Kurt W. Hillig and Gertrude (Hosel) Hillig, he was born on October 3, 1924 in

Melvindale, MI.  He attended the University of Michigan, receiving his BS in

Chemistry in 1944. In 1945-46 he interrupted his studies to work at MIT and

the University of Chicago on the Manhattan Project, and participated in the

first atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll; he was honorably discharged from the

Army after this service.  Bill returned to the University of Michigan and

completed his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 1953.  In 1949 he married fellow

student and lab partner, Dr. Beth Cook.

 

    From 1953 through 1989 he was a research and liaison scientist at the

General Electric Corporate Research and Development laboratory in

Schenectady, NY.  Following retirement he spent a year in Hamburg, Germany as

an Alexander Humboldt fellow, then joined Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in

Troy, NY as a research professor in Materials Science.  He held 12 patents

and authored more than 70 papers, reviews and book contributions in areas

including nucleation and crystal growth, delayed failure in glasses, fracture

propagation in brittle materials, high temperature ceramics and ceramic

composites, and composite biomaterials.

 

    In 1959, Bill and several other American engineers and scientists

organized Volunteers for International Technical Assistance (VITA) to develop

practical solutions using locally available technology for problems in the

developing world.  He took several leaves of absence from GE to work with the

International Institute for Rural Reconstruction and the International Rice

Research Institute in the Philippines.

 

    In 1940, Bill and his father built a log cabin by the shore of Lake Huron

in Canada, which has remained a summer retreat for the family to this day. He

was an enthusiastic violinist and skier, amateur astronomer and rockhound,

and enjoyed camping, hiking and mushroom hunting in the Adirondacks.  His

experience with VITA gave him a love of traveling around the world, visiting

India, China, and Tibet, as well as Germany (East and West), Croatia and Spain.

 

    Bill was a member of the American Chemical Society and the Materials

Research Society, a fellow of the American Ceramics Society and the American

Association for the Advancement of Science, and a founding member of the

German Composites Society. He was also a long-time member of the Unitarian

Universalist Society of Schenectady.

 

    He is survived by his wife of 68 years,Beth; his sister Joyce (Wayne)

Baker; his children Christine McKeen, Dr. Kurt W. Hillig II (Kathy) and Karl

Hillig, as well as two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

 

    Memorial contributions may be made to the Unitarian Universalist Society

of Schenectady, 1221 Wendell Ave, Schenectady NY, 12308.

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