Theodore George Rochow


American Cyanamid and College of Textiles
Theodore George Rochow 1908 – June 23, 2003
Years of Service NCSU Textiles 1969-1974

Theodore George (Ted) Rochow was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Theodore Rochow, treasurer of the Otto H. Oppenheimer Leather Co., in Newark. (1)  He grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey and attended Cornell University where he received his B.A. degree in Chemistry and Ph.D. (1934) in Chemical Microscopy with minors in physical chemistry and psychology.  His younger brother, Eugene G. Rochow, a world famous silicone chemist and winner of the Perkin Medal, was an assistant to him in high school and at Cornell.  “We were still in the Great Depression,” he recalled, “and Ph.D.s were going to work for less than a $1.00 an hour.” (6)  He gladly took a job in an analytical laboratory for the American Cyanamid Company in Linden, New Jersey.  Moving a few years later to Stamford, Connecticut, Dr. Rochow progressed with the company and became one of the nation’s leading microscopists, dedicating his life to the further use of this instrument to unravel the wonders of science.

American Cyanamid was one of the leading chemical conglomerates in the middle of the 20th century.  Their research facility in Connecticut was world-class and was populated by leading scientists who used the latest equipment.  In about 1942, RCA delivered to Cyanamid one of the first three RCA electron microscopes (probably the Model EMB –the first commercial model made in 1940) ever commercially sold.  Much of the first work was devoted to the war effort.

One of his many outstanding contributions while at Cyanamid was the design and construction of the first and only microscopical, automated microdynamometer microtension tester.  This device allowed the researcher to see as well as to plot the changes in fiber behavior up to and through its breaking point.  For this work, Dr. Rochow and his associate, R.T. Bates, won the John Bunyan Award of the New York Microscopical Society in 1968.  A paper on the instrument published in Materials Research and Standards, led to an award mentioned later – the Richard L. Templin Award.

Dr. Theodore “Ted” Rochow
Photos Courtesy of School of Textiles News

Modern polarized light microscopical applications mostly evolved out of the Cornell University laboratories of Drs. Chamot,and later Mason, who developed much of the equipment and applications used today. Much was done in the 1920s and-30s. With many ingenious modifications polarized light microscopy became a broadly applied quantitative and qualitative tool. Later many other instruments were developed; scientists often learn the frequently considered more sophisticated instruments without an adequate background foundation in the many techniques with light.

Ted earned his Ph.D. with Chamot and Mason in 1934 and Walter McCrone completed his in 1942. These two scientists interacted at Cornell and maintained a close professional relationship the rest of their lives.  Walter McCrone is the preeminent light microscopist of the 20th century. Among his many contibutions, he published more than 600 articles and sixteen books or chapters. His efforts were mainly for chemists, materials scientists, forensics and the general public.  He has often been called ” the father of Modern Microscopy”.(7)   He received broad, some controversial, recognition for his analytical work on the Shroud of Turin, the Vinland Map as well as many others including artistic works and forensics. Ted rose to the position of Research Fellow at American Cyanamid.  He was a charter member of the Electron Microscopy Society of America, and the New York Microscopical Society where he served as president in 1966-67.  After retirement from industry in 1969, he joined the faculty of the School of Textiles at NC State University where he was appointed as Associate Professor.  The School of Textiles had recently received permission to offer the Ph.D. in Fiber and Polymer Science.  Ted’s arrival greatly enhanced the program’s basic, fundamental scientific abilities.  Ted’s earlier experiences and knowledge well equipped him to assist young researchers check the progress of their work using microscopy.  After modernizing the Fiber Science 211 course for sophomores to include work with newly-acquired polarizing microscopes, he initiated his first graduate course, “Advanced Microscopy”. Ted came with almost nothing in the college with which to work and he managed to buy, through the school and a private grant of $2,000 from the Allen H. Meyers Foundation, Inc., the most basic polarizing microscopes available-made by Unitron. (5) “Over 100 students completed the course in the first five years, since it was first offered in 1969.  It was an aid to macroscopy, not an instrumentation course, according to Rochow.  A course in “Resinography” was designed next.  Broad in scope, the course allowed students to study a range of substances with any kind of instrument available.  Rochow initiated, developed and co-named Resinography. His third course on “Optical Crystallography” took up where Advanced Microscopy left off.  Graduate students were encouraged to explore more kinds of crystals, such as liquid ones, and to use more accessories, such as the hot stage.   He developed a program that lives on today.  After retiring again in 1974, he continued to do research and published his last paper in 2000 at age 92. (2, 3, 4)

Ted and Graduate Student Charles Logan discuss microscopy made possible by the Allen H. Meyers Foundation Inc. Grant 

Ted and his wife, Elizabeth receive the 1973 Richard L. Templin Award from ASTM President Rudy Jones

Ted continued to receive national recognition in his final years at the School of Textiles.  His service to ASTM earned him the Society’s Award of Merit in 1968.  He was the former chairman of Committee E-23 on Resinography and E-25 on Microscopy.  He was named a fellow of the Society in 1970 and was the only member in North Carolina holding that honor. The ASTM awarded him the 1973 Richard L. Templin Award “for an outstanding paper describing new and useful testing procedures and mechanical apparatus.” (6)

He was also a member of AATCC, AAAS, ACS, The Electron Microscopy Society of America, the Optical Society of America, The Royal Microscopical Society of Great Britain, Sigma Xi, and Delta Kappa Phi.  He was also an honorary member of the Louisiana Society for Electron Microscopy.

Among the directories listing his name were: American Men of Science, Who’s Who in the East, Who’s Who in Chemistry, Leaders in American Science and the International Scholars Directory.

He and his wife, Elizabeth Cook Rochow moved to Spring Hill, Hernando County, Florida in 1998 to be near their son, Theodore F. Rochow, of Brooksville, Florida.  Ted passed away on June 23, 2003. (2)

Selected Papers and Book Chapters:

  1. Theodore G. Rochow, The Oiling of Leather, J. Phys Chem., 1929
  2. Theodore G. Rochow, Chapter 8: Teaching Resinography at NCSU – Raleigh, and Chapter 9: Teaching Microscopy at the Graduate Level, Volume 52, John Gustave Delly, author, Teaching Microscopy, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, Illinois.
  3. Theodore Rochow, The Human Element in Microscopy, Selected Papers on Optical Microscopy, SPIE Milestone Series, V. MS 163.  2000
  4. And well over 50 more.


  1. Theodore G. Rochow and Eugene G. Rochow, “An Introduction to Microscopy by Means of Light, Electrons, X-Rays or Ultrasound,” Perseus Publishing, Cambridge Mass, 1978.
  2. Theodore G. Rochow and Eugene G. Rochow, “Resinography: An Introduction to the Definition, Identification, and Recognition of Resins, Polymers, Plastics, and Fibers,” Perseus Publishing, Cambridge Mass, 1976.
  3. Theodore G. Rochow and Paul A. Tucker, Introduction to Microscopy by Means of Light, Electrons, X-Rays or Acoustics (Languages and Information Systems), Springer, 1994.


  1. John C. Bird and Theodore G. Rochow, US Patent 2,552,027, Casting Gelatin Tablets, assigned to American Cyanamid Company.  Filed Jan 17, 1948, Issued May 8, 1951.
  2. Alan Fred Kirkpatrick and Theodore G. Rochow, US Patent 2,882,270, Triazine Additives to Metal Powders, assigned to American Cyanamid Company.  Filed Feb 27, 1957, Issued Feb 4,1958.


  1. US Archives. Newark, the City of Industry, 1912, page 103
  2. Obituary, Theodore George Rochow.
  3. Chemical Heritage Foundation Oral History of Eugene G. Rochow, younger brother of Ted.–Front-Matter-and-Index.pdf
  4. Personal communication, Paul A. Tucker, May 2012
  5. School of Textiles News, Vol. 6, No. 3, July 1974 page 4
  6. School of Textile News, Vol. 6, No. 1, January 1974, page 2.
  7. Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists(SWAFS)—Website, 6/5/12.