William Buehler

Nov. 14, 2014

William Buehler (BS ’44, MS ’47, Chem Egr) of New Bern, N.C., passed away on Nov. 9, 2014. He was 91.

He was born in Detroit, the son of Rupert J. and Grace S. Buehler. He was preceded in death by his dearly loved wife of 50 years, Marjorie Bell Buehler; his brother Richard Buehler, and his parents.

He received his early education in the Detroit area, then attended Michigan State University majoring in chemical engineering. Following graduation, he entered the U.S. Navy during World War II. Graduating from Reserve Midshipmen's School at Columbia University, he was commissioned and assigned duty as a gunnery officer on the light cruiser USS Portsmouth (CL-102).

Upon separation from the U.S. Navy, he returned to graduate school at Michigan State University. He obtained a graduate degree in metallurgy and collaterally obtained a secondary teaching certificate.

His primary working career was devoted to two professions: university teaching and metallurgical research. Initially, he taught metallurgy in the Mechanical Engineering Department at North Carolina State University until 1951, and then did metallurgical research. From 1975 to 1979, he taught at Virginia Polytechnic Institute where his teaching activity earned him university tenure and three certificates of teaching excellence.

Between the periods of university teaching, he was employed from 1951 to 1975 at the U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory, White Oak, Md. There his activity was directed to research and development of a wide variety of specialty metallic alloy materials.

Working under those guidelines, he invented and developed numerous alloy systems. Of the specialty metallic alloys he discovered, the most notable was the alloy system based upon the equiatomic intermetallic compound alloy of Nickel and Titanium with several additional complex property altering atomic metallic additions (1958). These highly unique alloys, under strain and temperature, exhibited large forceful recovery, "shape memory" and "super elasticity." Early on William labeled the alloy system NITINOL, which is widely used, describing these alloys, to this day.

These previously unattainable metallic alloy properties, coupled with excellent corrosion resistance, ultimately found widespread international application in such sophisticated implantable medical devises as arterial stents, blood clot filters, etc. Their superelastic property promoted virtually complete universal dental application in orthodontic bridgewires, dental tools, etc.

Other example applications occurred in aircraft hydraulic line couplers (Cryofit), flexible eye glasses frames (Flexon), temperature sensors, etc.

In his retirement years, he was greatly pleased with their continued widespread and expanded usage, patent activity and the worldwide production and product marketing.

In recognition of his metallic alloy research and invaluable innovative contributions, Buehler, received many awards. The most notable being two U.S. Government Meritorious Civilian Service Awards, the American Society for Metals George Kimball Burgess Memorial Award, and the U.S. Wire Association's Nonferrous Metals Award. These were additionally complimented by numerous lesser invention and patent awards, citations, publications, acknowledgements and invited presentations.

Following his NITINOL alloy successes, he always tried very hard to be humble in his acceptance of public praise. But on rare occasions he would express his inward satisfaction and gratification that his singular initial research had ultimately spread so widely and helped so many people from the medical and dental standpoints.

On the lighter side, his primary avocation throughout his life was golf. He openly admitted that over the 75 years of ample playing he never attained the proficiency he desired. His talent peaked during his one year on the Michigan State varsity golf team, where he qualified for match play at the national NCAA Tournament at Inverness C.C. in Toledo, Ohio.

He is survived by his daughter Jeaninne Billingsley and husband Robert of River Bend; devoted son William J. Buehler, Jr. and his wife Constance of Richmond, Va.; granddaughter Jennifer King of Cary, N.C.; granddaughter Stacey Pinkham and husband Richard of Wilmington, N.C.; grandson Robert Billingsley, Jr. and wife Kelli of New Bern; grandson Brett Buehler of New York, N.Y.; and granddaughters Kellie and Anna Beth Buehler of Midlothian, Va.; five great grandchildren Ella and Carson Billingsley, Alexandra Fletcher, and Lucy and Dixon Pinkham.

Funeral services were Nov. 12 at Cotten Funeral Home Chapel. Burial followed at Greenleaf Memorial Park.

Online condolences may be made to the Buehler family at www.cottenfuneralhome.com