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Archived Comments for: Remembering Mary (1917 to 2008): editorial introduction to the thematic series on the life and lifework of Mary Mandels, first lady of cellulase research

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  1. Remembering Mary (and Elwyn)

    Peter Reilly, Iowa State University

    8 October 2009

    Dear Ed,

    Thanks so much for writing your most gracious memoire of Mary Mandels.

    Even though I was not in the cellulase field when she was still scientifically active, I knew and very much liked both her and Elwyn Reese. Mary's comment once about Elwyn was that he retired on a Friday and was back in the lab on Monday, now unpaid, but still bossing all of them around. Luckily Mary was less modest than Elwyn. There was an award that they jointly won, I forget which one, where Mary was contacted by the conference organizers with the instructions to make sure that she brought Elwyn to the conference so that they could both accept the award. He had no idea what was about to happen and would not have attended had he known.

    I hadn't seen Mary since she retired and stopped attending meetings, but my memories of her and of Elwyn are still fresh and wonderful.

    I can fill you in on Elwyn. As you've seen from his pictures, he was physically very fit, even into his 70s. He had climbed every mountain over 3,000 feet in New Hampshire. And then he suddenly died!

    In December 1977 I was in Tallinn, Estonia and in Moscow with Elwyn and about ten others on a US/USSR scientific cooperation visit (they disappeared after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan). Elwyn was wearing a tie with elephants on it, and I was able to tell an Estonian translator about Massachusetts’s politics, that maybe Elwyn was the only Republican in the whole state.

    Elwyn used to read my papers even though they weren't on cellulases. Some time after they came out, I would receive notes from him in very small handwriting telling me how I could have made them better.


    Prof. Peter J. Reilly
    Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
    2031 Sweeney Hall
    Iowa State University
    Ames, IA 50011-2230

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