Born in 1906 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Robert Salomon Morton was educated in the School of the Orthodox Synagogue, Kahal Adath Jeshurun. He was not only a witness to, but also the personal target of Nazi persecution in the years leading up to World War II. A particularly harrowing experience in 1934 convinced him that he had no choice but to apply for emigration to the United States – a process that took three years, but finally resulted in his coming to Boston. For many years, he and his wife, Sophie, were caretakers of and caterers for the Hillel Foundation at Harvard University.
It was during his time at Hillel that a chance meeting at a barbershop brought Morton together with Bill Giessen, then a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Giessen, who eventually went on to teach chemistry and mechanical engineering at Northeastern for over 40 years, had grown up and was educated in Germany during and following the Nazi period. The long-time friendship and ongoing conversation that resulted from this meeting helped to foster a sense of discovery between the two men. The annual Morton Memorial Lecture was created as a way of memorializing a personality who embodied a spirit of reconciliation and understanding.
The Robert Salomon Morton Memorial Lecture is sponsored by the Gustel Cormann Giessen Memorial Fund and Robert S. Morton Lecture Fund at Northeastern. The lectureship was created in 1994 by Northeastern professor Bill Giessen (1932-2010).
The 23rd Annual Robert Salomon Morton Memorial Lecture is on Tuesday, January 27, 2015.