Remembering Dr. Louis H. Barnett, B’44, H’77

Northeastern recently lost a key influencer in its journey to becoming a top-tier research institution. A renowned chemical engineer, a pioneer in the plastics industry, generous benefactor, and devoted member of the university community, Dr. Louis Barnett, B’44, H’77, passed away just one week shy of his 102nd birthday.

Born on November 22, 1918, in Malden, Massachusetts, to first-generation American parents, Louis Barnett earned degrees in chemical engineering and industrial management before starting his business, Loma, in 1948 with an order for plastic fishing lures. By 1965, Loma had grown by leaps and bounds, and Barnett had many firsts to his credit, including the plastic garbage can, the plastic roll-top bread box, plastic the paper towel dispenser, and the plastic clothes hamper. He sold the company in 1966.  Dr. Barnett was a true renaissance man who was also devoted to his family. He was known as an author, a gourmet cook, connoisseur of fine wines, and cigar afficionado. He has served on the boards of banks, companies, hospitals, arts organizations, and universities in the U.S. and Israel.

Through his philanthropy, the Barnett institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis at Northeastern University was established and named in his honor in 1973. Today, with more than 50 scientists and an $8 million endowment, the Institute is internationally recognized as one of the premier centers for cutting-edge research and advanced training in analytical chemistry for biomedical applications. The Barnett Institute’s active program of spin-outs and licensing technology provides for many real-life applications of research advances, which have led to more than 1,000 published papers and 75 patents. Its more than 400 graduates are leaders in prestigious academic institutions and the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Barnett would often reflect on how proud he was of the Barnett graduates. Barnett served as chair of the advisory board for the Institute, and held volunteer leadership roles at Northeastern as both Corporator and Overseer. He was awarded an honorary degree in 1977.

Dr. Barnett was recently chosen as the 2020 Northeastern University Pioneer Award. The Northeastern University Pioneer Award is reserved for individuals who create opportunities, forge new paths and have a deep and lasting impact on the University. Dr. Barnett could not be a more fitting embodiment of this spirit.

Dr. Barnett’s leadership and innovation helped position Northeastern University as a leading research institution.  He was a champion and generous supporter of our students and his unwavering commitment to learning and discovery helped shape the Northeastern of today and will propel us into the future. We remember Dr. Louis Barnett with appreciation and admiration for his exceptional service and extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends, and colleagues.

We invite you to read more about him in his published memorial.

Barnett Institute for Chemical & Biological Analysis
Chemistry and Chemical Biology