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Robert Kenneth Brinton, 1915-1996



Robert Brinton, born in Los Angeles on January 9, 1915, was a pioneer California rock climber and skier with a contagious enthusiasm and a sprightly sense of humor. As a boy he was active with the Trailfinders, which were led by Harry C. James. At the age of 11 Bob climbed Mount San Gorgonio, the highest point in Southern California. He attended Los Angeles High School. He was part of a small group that skied in the winter and rock climbed in the summer. He was a leader, with Walter Mosauer and George Bauwens, in the formation of the Ski Mountaineers Section of the Sierra Club. He named the Ski Mountaineer news sheet the Mugelnoos. He was on a number of ski touring trips in the High Sierra, including a crossing of the Whitney-Russell Pass on skis.

In 1936, with James Smith, Bob was one of the discoverers of Tahquitz Rock as a climbing area. His first ascents included the Trough, Piton Pooper and Fingertip Traverse. In the same year he skied on Mount Rainier with Wolfgang Lert.

On September 5, 1937, Bob made the first ascent of the East Buttress of Mount Whitney. In 1938, he was in British Columbia climbing Bugaboo Spire, and in Zion National Park going through the Narrows of the Virgin River and making a first ascent of the Sentinel.

World War II scattered the Sierra Club skiers and climbers. Robert Brinton worked for the National Defense Research Council at Northwestern University, University of Southern California and field research in Panama, Australia and New Guinea.

Through the Ski Mountaineers Section of the Sierra Club he met Mary Mies, whom he married in 1946. They had three daughters and two granddaughters.

In 1948, Robert Brinton received his Ph.D. in chemistry from UCLA and accepted a faculty position in the chemistry department at University of California Davis. He taught introductory chemistry and physical chemistry, and his primary research interests were in photo chemistry and gas phase reactions.

Bob and Mary spent sabbatical years in Ottawa, Canada, with a National Research Council of Canada Fellowship from 1954 to 1955, in Stuttgart, Germany, with a Guggenheim Fellowship from 1961 to 1962, and in Cambridge, England, from 1971 to 1972. He retired in 1976 but kept his office at Davis and the Brintons continued to travel extensively in Switzerland and elsewhere.

Robert Brinton died on December 9, 1996, in Davis at the age of 81. The Robert K. and Mary M. Brinton Chemistry Department Graduate Student Loan Fund has been established at the University of California, Davis.

Glen Dawson