Hymin Shapiro

Hymin Shapiro died on November 1 in Seattle, where he lived for 8 years. He was a long-time employee of Ethyl Corporation.


He was born in Detroit on April 8, 1915 to Fannie Zuckerman Shapiro and Bernard Samuel Shapiro. He started school in the second grade and graduated from Northern High School in Detroit at the age of 15. He went on to Detroit’s Wayne State University, receiving a B. S. in Chemistry in 1934. He then took off a year to work as a painter for his father’s construction business before going onto the University of Michigan, where he earned a Masters degree in chemistry in 1936. He was refused entry into a Ph. D. program at the University because its “Jewish quota” was filled.


After sending some 200 letters to potential employers, Hy accepted an offer from what was to become his sole employer over his adult life. He was hired as chemist in the Ethyl company’s Detroit research laboratory, at the then high salary of $160 per month. He went on to become Assistant Director of Chemistry Research for the company. In 1957 he was transferred from Detroit to the company’s major facility in Baton Rouge, LA, where he served as Senior Research Advisor until his retirement in 1985.


Hy generated 110 patents during his career, mostly in the fields of organometallic chemistry. Perhaps the most significant of these is a patent on new organomanganese compounds, which became the basis of a commercial anti-knock compound for gasoline. In 1968 he co-authored The Organic Compounds of Lead with Frederick Frey.


Hy’s marriage to  Bernice Bassichis in 1939 ended after 15 years. He is survived by two children, Gary and Galia, from the marriage. He married Betty Moss in 1956. They had a wonderful and long marriage until Betty’s death in 2006. Hy’s early retirement years were marked by travel with Betty to Africa, Asia, and the American tropics. In 2000, Hy and Betty moved to the Seattle area to be near Betty’s son and daughter-in-law, Bob and Sue Moss. Hy is survived by his sister Stacia, as well as his children and stepson.