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Official Obituary of

Edward Wolf

May 30, 1935 ~ March 11, 2023 (age 87) 87 Years Old

Edward Wolf Obituary

Edward Wolf passed away in Ithaca, New York on March 11, 2023 at the age of 87 after a long battle with congestive heart failure.  Dr. Wolf was born and raised on a western Kansas wheat and cattle farm near the town of Quinter. He was the youngest of four children of Ezra Wolf and Zora (Jamison) Wolf.  He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Marlene Kay (Simpson) Wolf.  They were classmates from first grade through high school.  He is also survived by three married daughters, Julie and Carter Saline, LeAnn and Dean Shea, and Shelly and Larry Muray, as well as nine grandchildren, and four great grandchildren.

Dr. Wolf was a modern-day renaissance man who was comfortable not just thinking, but working outside the box. His journey was from the dusty plains of western Kansas to the ivory halls of the Ivy League to help Cornell lead the nation in nanofabrication.  Dr. Wolf’s many accomplishments can be found on the internet with searches for Edward Wolf, ECE Cornell, biolistic gene gun, and NRRFSS.

Dr. Wolf graduated magna cum laude with a BS degree in chemistry from McPherson College. He was a class president and earned varsity letters in basketball, tennis, and football as an all-conference quarterback.  He received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Iowa State University and did his postdoctoral studies at Princeton University and UC Berkeley.

He spent thirteen years at the Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, CA where he led a pioneering research and development group in scanning electron beam surface physics. He became a Hughes senior scientist and was made a Fellow of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) for this important work leading to nanotechnology.  While in southern California the Wolfs were also active members in the Panorama City Church of the Brethren.  

Dr. Wolf joined Cornell University in 1978 as a tenured professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and as the first director of the National Research and Resource Facility for Submicron Structures (NRRFSS). He was responsible for the design and staffing of Knight Laboratory, the new state-of-the-art cleanroom facility for NRRFSS.  The facility later became the Cornell Nanoscale Science and Technology Facility (CNF) that today, 45 years later, continues as a leading national facility for nanofabrication.   

Dr. Wolf was co-inventor of the Biolistic “gene gun” for genetic transformation and co-founder of Biolistics, Inc. which developed the gene gun.  Two versions of the Biolistic gene gun have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.  Dr. Wolf coined the word “biolistic” which is now officially a new word of the English language and trademarked by DuPont.

During his sabbatical in 1986-87, Dr. Wolf was a visiting Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, and a visiting faculty member in the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University.  Dr. Wolf was also the first Foreign Fellow at the Erwin Schrödinger Gessellschaft für Microwissenschaften (Society for Microsciences), a guest professor at Vienna University of Technology, and a visiting scientist at Ion Microfabrication Systems in Vienna.                                                                       

Dr. Wolf was a stalwart supporter and promoter of entrepreneurism.  After retirement, he returned to Cornell in 1995 as the founding director of the Cornell Office for Technology Access and Business Assistance (COTABA). The mission of COTABA was to facilitate commercialization of Cornell's intellectual property for products beneficial to society. He testified before the House Subcommittee on Science and Technology on “Government and Innovation: University-Industry Relations.” He was inducted as a Fellow into the National Academy of Inventors in 2015.

As a collector/restorer of historical telescopes, he was especially pleased when the Beijing Planetarium purchased his telescope collection in 2016. He self-published a full-color 365-page telescope collection book. His book will continue to be available on his website at

He was always looking out for the needs of those around him.  As a hobby and project person, his interest in fixing things often benefitted neighbors and friends.  He frequently invited his graduate students to holiday dinners when they were unable to travel home.  Nieces and nephews and their children could always depend on him for his kind support and listening ear.

Ed dearly loved his family and was sensitive to the needs of each person. He and Marlene recently celebrated their 67th anniversary and 87th birthdays. Together they enjoyed building their dream home and creating their nationally recognized gardens on the west shore of Cayuga Lake.  Summers were special family gathering times at Grammy and Grandad’s “Club Ed” on the lake.  The family has many fond memories of tubing and waterskiing with Grandad at the helm, fishing, skipping rocks, beach bonfires, fort building, big family dinners, wagon rides hitched up to the John Deere garden tractor and Austin-Healey rides.

He will be missed by many. 

A memorial service will be held at The Presbyterian Church of Ithaca, NY on Saturday June 17, 2023 at 2:00pm.

If you would like to make a donation in his honor, please send your contribution to hospice care in your area.

Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Bangs Funeral Home, Ithaca, NY.  Online condolences may be made to Edward’s family at

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Memorial Service
June 17, 2023

2:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church of Ithaca
315 N. Cayuga Street
Ithaca, NY 14850


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