Paul O’Connor, 92, died March 14 after a brief illness.

He was born in Milwaukee, Wis., on Feb. 3, 1921, to Arthur and Helen (Radell) O’Connor. He lived in St. Anthony Park for many years, and then in Falcon Heights.

He attended Haverford College where he majored in chemistry and mathematics (with, he liked to add, a minor in Bridge). During graduate school he participated in a program in the Manhattan Project isolating isotopes of plutonium. He signed the Szilárd petition in 1945 urging President Truman not to use the atomic bomb against people without first offering an observed demonstration.

In 1947, he became a professor at the University of Minnesota where the focus of his work changed after Russia put the Sputnik into orbit, prompting a national effort to upgrade science and math education in the U.S. He helped develop and promote CHEM study, a new curriculum for high school chemistry. Because of this work he was invited to introduce the curriculum in India and spent about five years there between 1964 and 1973.

He retired after 26 years, for medical reasons, and took up his second career as a weaver. He applied his mathematical mind to complex double weave and continued to experiment, teach and publish for the next 40 years until the time of his death, which occurred shortly after putting a new warp on his loom.

He is survived by his children, Mike (Marcie Archer) O’Connor and Maggie (Linda Ridlehuber) O’Connor, and four grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Pat; brothers, John, Bob, Gary and Neal; and sister, Jean Kelley. A memorial service was held April 20 at Walker Place in Minneapolis.

 

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