Lyman Vane Racster
October 29, 1996
By Sam Wait
Lyman Vane Racster died on September 1, 1996 in Indiana where he had resided since his retirement from Rensselaer in 1970.
He was born in Albion,
Illinois on March 24, 1905. He received his BS in Chemistry from the University of Illinois
in 1928 and his MS in Inorganic Chemistry in 1932 also from the University of Illinois. He had a minor in Physical Education and Coaching
and coached high school sports ranging from golf and tennis to basketball and
From 1928 through 1942 he taught chemistry in several high
schools in Illinois. He held a Civil Service position as an
instructor of radio from July through December 1942, prior to serving as a
Radio Technician in the United States Navy from December 1942 to 1945 and
graduated from the Navy’s Electronic Engineering School
in Washington, D.C.
He taught at Clarkson
College as an instructor
of radio in the Department of Electrical Engineering from 1945-1946. He joined the Rensselaer
faculty as Assistant Professor of Chemistry in September 1946.
While at Rensselaer, Lyman
Racster was in charge of the Freshman Chemistry Laboratory during the time that
Harold Faigenbaum was still lecturing in Freshman Chemistry. In addition, he taught courses in inorganic
chemistry and inorganic chemistry laboratory.
However, perhaps his most notable activity was the creation of one of
the first courses in electronic instrumentation for chemists in the country. Generations of chemistry majors were
privileged to have him teach them about electronics in the days before and
after transistors. He was never too busy
to help students with special projects – I well remember going to his home with
my first Heathkit AM-FM tuner that wasn’t working properly and having him
diagnose my cold soldered joints and helping me to repair it. He also was an avid photographer and had a
well equipped darkroom in his home.
For a number of years prior to his retirement, he was the
principal advisor and degree clearance officer for all chemistry majors. He spent many hours with students and was
more than willing to help them plan schedules.
I missed the fall semester of my sophomore year with an eye surgery, and
he worked hard to make sure that I could take overloads and attend summer
school so that I could graduate on time.
He was not above cutting corners and bending rules when it was to the students’
We were fortunate to have him as a colleague during his
years at Rensselaer. The faculty mourns his passing. He has no family except a nephew and I
request a copy of this be placed in the minutes and sent to his nephew.
Lon R. Racster
Attorney at Law
121 W. High