Hall, Creator of First Synthetic Diamond, 88

H. Tracy Hall, creator of the man-made industrial diamond, passed away at his home early on the morning of July 25. He was 88.

Howard Tracy Hall was born on October 20, 1919, in Ogden, Utah, to Howard Hall and Florence Almina Tracy. As a young man he roamed the fields of Marriott, Utah, read avidly at the Ogden Carnegie Library, and assembled home-made contraptions from junk-yard components. As a fourth grader he told his teacher he would someday work for General Electric, the company so closely associated with his hero, inventor Thomas Edison.

While a student at the University of Utah in 1941, Hall married his sweetheart, Ida-Rose Langford. After completing his B.S. and then an M.S. in chemistry in 1943, he served for two years as a Navy ensign. Returning to the University of Utah in 1946, he became Henry J. Eyring’s first graduate student, receiving his PhD in 1948. Two months later he started work at the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, N.Y.

At GE, Hall joined a team focused on synthesizing diamonds in the laboratory. On December 16, 1954, he became the first person to produce diamond from carbon using a verifiable and reproducible process.

Of the experience Tracy later recalled: “My eyes caught the flashing light from dozens of tiny crystals. My hands began to tremble; my heart beat rapidly; my knees weakened and no longer gave support—I knew that diamonds had finally been made by man.”

Hall eventually became Director of Research at Brigham Young University in 1955, and over his 30 years at BYU, where he was a highly regarded professor of chemistry and mentor of many graduate students. During that time he also invented the tetrahedral and cubic presses which allowed him to continue his research in the field of high pressure.

In 1966, Hall partnered with two BYU professors, Bill Pope and Duane Horton, to form Megadiamond, a company that manufactures diamond products for industrial applications. Many other diamond-producing companies, based on Hall’s inventions, have emerged worldwide; and a large variety of man-made diamond products are used throughout all industries.

In his personal life, Hall was a kind and devoted husband and father. One of his greatest joys was serving as a bishop in the Provo Utah Pleasant View First Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He counseled and served youth and adult members daily with the same diligence he had shown in earlier days when called upon to help build a chapel or dig dandelions from its lawn. Tracy and Ida-Rose later served a full-time mission to Zimbabwe and South Africa (1982-83) and often recalled the joy of that experience. In his retirement Hall returned to his farming roots and spent his days working hard at his tree farm in Payson, Utah.

During recent years, Hall suffered the effects of long-term diabetes and advancing age. He was cared for by his wife Ida-Rose until her death in 2005, and by his daughter, Nancy, and other devoted caretakers.

He is survived by four brothers, Eugene M. (Joyce Hansen, dec.), Wendell H. (Merrill E.), Donald R. (D. Louise), and Delbert (L. Carlyn Henshaw, dec.); seven children, Sherlene (Daniel R. Bartholomew), H. Tracy (Helen Gardner Van Orman), David R. (Karen VanDyke), Elizabeth (J. Martin Neil), Virginia (Barry D. Wood), Charlotte (Bryan Y. Weight), Nancy (Douglas A. Mecham); daughter-in-law Elizabeth Huntington Hall; thirty-five grandchildren; and fifty-three great-grandchildren.

Hall was preceded in death by his wife, Ida-Rose (March 7, 2005), and a daughter in-law, Donna Rae Coy Hall (Sept. 23, 1970).

Funeral Services will be held at 11am on Wed., July 30, at the Pleasant View 1st Ward, 650 East Stadium Avenue, Provo, Utah. A viewing will be held Tuesday evening 6-8 p.m., at Sundberg-Olpin Mortuary, 495 South State Street, Orem, Utah, and from 10 a.m.-10:45 a.m., at the Pleasant View 1st Ward chapel, prior to the funeral. Contributions to the Perpetual Education Fund are welcomed in lieu of flowers. The family expresses appreciation to all who enriched his life and eased his final days with their skilled care and neighborly friendship.

More information on the life and accomplishments of Hall can be found at:

http://www.htracyhall.org/History/bio.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracy_Hall
Hazen, Robert M. “The Diamond Makers” (Cambridge, 1999) ISBN 0-521-65474-2

Photo caption: Hall with an hourglass filled with diamond crystals made by the process he invented on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diamond synthesis.