Ed was born in Brooklyn, NY and spent most of the first 20 years of his life there, graduating in 1964 with a BS in Chemistry with Honors from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York (CUNY). He earned a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Illinois in Urbana, IL in 1968, and moved to Las Cruces, NM with his wife, Amy, to join the NMSU Chemistry Department as an assistant professor. He retired as a full professor from NMSU after 24 years and moved to Los Alamos, where he spent two years at LANL focused on the remediation of nuclear waste. In 1993 he had the opportunity to spend two years as a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii, where he and Amy enjoyed the beaches, bodysurfing, sailing, and embraced the island life. They returned to the mainland in 1995, for Ed to take a position as the Chair of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy & Science (later renamed to USP), the oldest pharmacy college in the nation. He spent 16 years at USP, where he developed a new computational center and greatly increased the Department’s research productivity.
During his time in academia he received several NSF, NIH, and MDA research grants, supervised many postdoctoral students and technicians, and was the author or co-author of more than 50 scientific articles and two books in bioinorganic chemistry. He was always active in faculty service activities, seeking ways to improve each university he was a part of.
After retiring in 2012, Ed and Amy moved back to Los Alamos, where he put his hat in the ring to become a County Councilor. He served on a variety of County committees, including the Utility Charter Review Committee, BPU’s Future Energy Resources committee, and sub-committees of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park committee. He and Amy have been very active in the local Democratic Party, where Ed served as treasurer, and they were recognized with the local John F. Kennedy achievement award in 2018 for their service. Ed became an avid skier at Pajarito, and he and Amy enjoyed traveling and taking cruises to new places. They walked almost every day in Los Alamos, and Ed was always very observant of conditions in town. He wrote many letters to the editor and emails to the local officials with suggestions on how to make improvements, and was always engaged to help where he could.
Ed was generous with his time throughout his life, leaving the lab bench to coach his daughters’ soccer teams, play basketball at the NMSU gym (where he was awarded “most shots, fewest points”), and use his woodworking skills to help his son craft a winning Pinewood Derby entry. He loved whitefish on a poppyseed bagel. He had an enormous library of folk, Hawaiian, and classical music on reel-to-reel tapes, CDs, and MP3s, and his enjoyment of music is shared by his whole family. He strove to leave things in a better state than when he arrived, and his motto was to live with honor, courage and humility. He will be greatly missed.
Ed was preceded in death by his parents, David and Sylvia Birnbaum. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Amy, by their three children, David (Anh Le), Eva (Mark McCleskey), and Jessica, and by five grandchildren. There will be a private family service. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations in memory of Edward Birnbaum to Project SEED at the American Chemical Society (acs.org/donate.html), to the MD Anderson Cancer Center (gifts.mdanderson.org), or your favorite charity.
The family has trusted Rivera Family Funeral Home of Los Alamos with the care of Mr. Birnbaum. Please feel free to leave messages of condolence, stories and pictures for the family to enjoy at http://www.riverafamilyfuneralhome.com