Emmett W. Chappelle, the recipient of 14 patents,a member of the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame and many of whose discoveries are used in the fields of medicine, philanthropy, food science and astrochemistry was born in 1925 in Phoenix, Arizona. He received his B.S. in biology from the University of California Berkeley in 1950. From 1950-1953, he taught at Meharry Medical College in Nashville. In 1954 he earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Washington, Seattle. He also completed post-graduate work at Stanford University.
In 2007, the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame recognized Emmett Chappelle’s work with Lyophilized Reaction Mixtures. This work revealed that a specific combination of chemicals caused all living organisms to emit light. Chappelle’s discovery facilitated important findings within the fields of biology and chemistry including the development of methods of testing still widely used to detect bacteria in urine, blood, spinal fluids, water and even food.
His work for the Research Institute in Baltimore, a division of Martin Marietta Corporation, an airplane and spacecraft manufacturer, helped to create a safe food supply for astronauts. In the mid 1960’s he also assisted in the development of instruments used in soil gathering on NASA’s Viking probe mission.
Some of his most recent work involves the use of fluorescence as a method for determining the health of forest vegetation. This technique has two significant advantages: First it is nonintrusive and can be used with living plants. Second, it can be performed from within a low-flying airplane, allowing researchers to monitor remote areas.
While Emmett Chappelle made many significant contributions with his work, he is also well known throughout the scientific field for his work as a mentor. He retired from NASA in 2001.