A Muench Scientific Trio:
Marriage Creates Muench Family Scientific Team
In 1937 Viola Muench (1914-1994) married Otto Herbert Schmitt (1913-1998). Thus began not only a marriage but a historic scientific collaboration. Otto’s brother, Francis O. Schmitt (1903-1995), completed the renowned trio described here in abstracts from Wikipedia:
Otto Herbert Schmitt was an American inventor, engineer, and biophysicist known for his scientific contributions to biophysics and for establishing the field of biomedical engineering. Schmitt also coined the term "biomimetics" and invented the Schmitt trigger, the cathode follower, the differential amplifier, and the chopper-stabilized amplifier.
Born in St. Louis, Mo., as a youth he displayed an affinity for electrical engineering but also pursued a wide range of other interests. He applied his multi-disciplinary talents as an undergraduate and graduate student at Washington University, where he worked in three departments: physics, zoology and mathematics. For his doctoral research, Schmitt designed and built an electronic device to mimic the propagation of action potentials along nerve fibers.
His most famous invention, now called the Schmitt trigger, arose from this early research. Schmitt spent most of his career at the University of Minnesota, where he did pioneering work in biophysics and bioengineering. He also worked at national and international levels to place biophysics and bioengineering on sound institutional footings. His years at Minnesota were interrupted by World War II. During that conflict ‒ and the initial months of the Cold War to follow ‒ Schmitt carried out defense-related research at the Airborne Instruments Laboratory in New York. Toward the end of his career at Minnesota, Schmitt coined the term “biomimetics.”
Viola Muench, the only daughter of Frederich J. Muench (1877-1972) and Clara Emilie Ahmann (1889-1978) of Saint Louis, taught Latin and Mathematics at the Mendon, Ill., high school for two years before marrying Otto in August 1937. A mathematician for the secret Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb during World War II, Viola was Otto’s beloved wife for 57 years, and the essential axle in Otto's life.
For years, Viola worked side by side with Otto without pay or complaint. Her devotion to their work was essential to Otto's success. Together, the pair completed an incredible dual career studying natural biological processes and inventing methods and machines that duplicated those actions. This new science became known as "biomimetics" or "The Mimicry of Nature."
Otto's research into squid nerves led to his early invention of the patented "Schmitt Trigger," used in billions of modern-day electronics. After World War II, their pursuits became strictly humanitarian in nature, concentrating on medical electronic diagnostic methods and machines at the University of Minnesota, where Otto chaired the biophysics department and Viola served as unofficial co-chair. Their inventions also included the DC transformer, the differential phase inverter, the cathode follower, three quadrature compaction algorithm, the three dimensional oscilloscope and many more. They published more than 260 papers in Otto's name, and influenced many of today's best scientists and inventors.
Francis O. Schmitt was an American biologist and institute professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Schmitt received a bachelor’s degree in 1924 and doctoral degree in 1927 from Washington University in St. Louis.
During a summer research program at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1923, he worked with Haldan Keffer Hartline under the supervision of Jacques Loeb and Thomas Hunt Morgan. Schmitt joined the faculty in 1929 and taught zoology until 1941. He collaborated extensively with Nobel laureate Arthur H. Compton to develop x-ray diffraction techniques for biological macro-structures such as muscles and nerves.
In 1941, Schmitt was recruited by MIT's Karl Compton and Vannevar Bush to lead a radically new biology department there that would combine biology, physics, mathematics and chemistry. Schmitt became an authority on electron microscopy and conducted innovative studies on kidney function, tissue metabolism, and the chemistry, physiology, biochemistry and electrophysiology of the nerve. He became institute professor in 1955 and professor emeritus in 1973. In 1962, Schmitt helped to found the Neurosciences Research Program and served as its chairman from 1962 to 1974.
Schmitt was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and a former president of the Electron Microscope Society of America. He was awarded the Albert Lasker Award in 1956, the Alsop Award in 1947, and the T. Duckett Jones Award in 1963. The Lasker Awards have been awarded annually since 1946 to living people who have made major contributions to medical science or who have performed public service on behalf of medicine. Administered by the Lasker Foundation, the awards are sometimes referred to as "America's Nobels.” Seventy-six Lasker laureates have received the Nobel Prize, including 28 in the last two decades.