Robert Rabson was born on March 4, 1926 and died on March 1, 2019 in Madison Wisconsin where lived for the past 9 years. Bob is survived by his wife of 68 years, Eileen Klionsky Rabson who he met in 1947 while they were camp counselors. He is also survived by their children Michael Rabson (Debbie Moritz) of Atherton CA, Barbra Rabson (John Silletto) of Belmont, MA and Laurel Rabson (Bill O’Brien) of Madison, Wisconsin and six grandchildren: Mark Moritz-Rabson, Daniel Moritz-Rabson, Lewis Silletto, Elisabeth Silletto, Russell O’Brien and Hanna O’Brien. Another daughter, Lisa Rabson, died in 1979.
Bob was born in Brooklyn NY to Rose and Sam Rabson. He served in the 86th Infantry Division during WWII, then went to college with the GI Bill, first at Brooklyn College, then Syracuse University and then Cornell University, where studied plant physiology receiving a B.S in 1951 and a PhD in 1956. He then was a post-doctoral fellow at the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee. From 1958-1963, he was an assistant professor and then associate professor at the University of Houston. In 1963, he joined the Civil Biology and Medicine division of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), where he served as assistant branch chief 1967-1973. In 1973, Bob became the first officer of the plant breeding and genetic section of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, where he served for 3 years. In 1973, he returned to the AEC (renamed US Department of Energy), in the Division of Biomedical and Environmental Science, and the director of the Division of Energy Biosciences until he retired in 1995. He devoted his career to biological energy research, and created and ran funding programs in the Department of Energy supporting research in basic energy sciences. Bob was respected by colleagues for his ability to identify basic research with promising implications for biologically-based energy generation and supporting promising young scientists.
Bob was a member of the advisory board for Research School Biological Science for Australian National University 1991-1995, a member of the plant science advisory board for the McKnight Foundation, a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member and officer of the American Society for Plant Physiologists. He was awarded the Adolph Gude award by the American Society for Plant Physiologists in 1986.
A reception will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, 2019 at CAPITOL LAKES, 333 W. MAIN STREET in the Sun Room. A memorial service is planned for June; service details will be posted at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Robert Rabson Award of the American Society of Plant Biologists, which was established in 2012 in recognition of Bob’s steadfast advocacy of plant biology, and recognizes postdoctoral scholars and faculty level early career scientists who have made contributions in the area of biological energy research.
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