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HOVORKA, FRANK

HOVORKA, FRANK (5 Aug. 1897-9 Apr. 1984), chemistry professor and a leader in electrochemistry, was born to Frank and Anna (Pavlova) Hovorka in Cernicorvce, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (presently the Czech Republic), where he learned barbering and attended business school at night. In 1913, he came to the U.S., settling in a Czech settlement in Amana, Iowa, barbering in nearby Waterloo. In 1915, Hovorka entered Waterloo public schools, then went to the subcollegiate department at the State College of Iowa (1917-19) and earned his B.A. (1922). He received his M.S. (1923), and Ph.D. (1925) from the University of Illinois. His dissertation on the properties of ionic solutions is a classic study in the electrochemistry of solutions.

In 1925, Hovorka joined WRU's chemistry department, helping establish a chemistry doctorate in 1930. He became full professor and director of the chemistry labs in 1942, and chairman of the chemistry department in 1950-58 and 1962-68. In 1954, Hovorka received WRU's Hurlbut Chair in chemistry. He retired in 1968 and was granted emeritus status. In 1973, Hovorka and many former students donated over $1 million to establish the Frank Hovorka Chair in chemistry. Hovorka wrote over 100 technical papers. He perfected platinized graphite electrodes in the 1930s, facilitating the development of modern fuel cells. In 1940, he developed a technique for measuring acid concentrations of solutions using porous graphite electrodes. Hovorka married Sophie Paul Nickel in 1926; she died in July 1979. In 1982, Hovorka married concert pianist and CWRU trustee Dorothy Humel. He had no children. Hovorka was buried in Connersville, Indiana.