October 5, 1920 ~ December 31, 2014
Benjamin Wiener was born in New York City on October 5, 1920. He was a first generation American and the youngest of 5 children. In many ways, his story was also the story of 20th Century America, stretching into the 21st. Speaking only Yiddish until he was 5 or 6, he entered the New York City public schools, bright enough to catch the attention of a teacher who asked if he had plans for college. The thought had never occurred to him but, as he would so many times afterwards, he seized the opportunity as it presented itself.
Ben was a part of the first graduating class of Queens College, going on to graduate studies in Chemistry at Columbia University. From there he was recruited to a new research project in Oak Ridge Tennessee; only later would its name, The Manhattan Project, be revealed. While proud of his role in ending WWII, Ben was among those scientists joining Scientists for Social Responsibility in recognition of the implications of the technology they had created.
His next pioneering accomplishments were in the pharmaceutical industry where he founded Zenith Laboratories, one of the first generic drug companies. Starting as a scrappy industry under constant attacks from the major pharmaceutical corporations, Ben helped lead the generic revolution that delivered life-saving drugs at a fraction of their previous cost, saving consumers billions of dollars. Before and after Zenith Labs, Ben worked with companies in over 50 countries and was honored as a "trailblazer" by the Generic Pharmaceutical Industry Association in 2004.
Beyond his professional adventures, Ben led a remarkably full life this short obituary cannot come close to detailing. Retirement did not sit well with him, so in 1992 he packed up a U-Haul truck and moved from New Jersey to Oregon, where he met his current wife Linda - a day he would say was his luckiest. Kindred spirits, they traveled the world and shared it together. To the last, he was a pioneer: after beating cancer he hit the front pages in 2012 as the first Oregonian to receive the collapsible Sapien heart valve - a ground-breaking procedure that will saved countless lives.
Benjamin Wiener died at home on December 31, 2014 at the age of 94. He is survived by his wife, Linda; children Mark and Beth; and grandchildren Tom, Sam, Jordan, Aoife and Caragh. He had a long, good run and the world is better for him having been in it.
Please sign Benjamin's Guest Book at www.columbian.com/obits
Published by The Columbian on Jan. 11, 2015.