Mr. Schwartz, who grew up in Brooklyn, NY, met his wife in a chemistry class at UC Berkeley, where he graduated in chemistry and she graduated in biochemistry, according to a brief biography of him on the Chemical Heritage Foundation Web site. They co-founded Bio-Rad in 1952, and Alice Schwartz currently sits on the board.
"The idea that would launch Bio-Rad came about during a student bridge game in early 1952," the biography says. "The Schwartzes and the other bridge players joked about products that should be available but weren’t on the market, such as tobacco mosaic virus, which Alice was using for scientific research and which required many days to prepare. Schwartz questioned why no one was manufacturing it and got an idea: why not create the tobacco mosaic virus and sell it to researchers?"
Tobacco mosaic virus didn't become a success, but other products developed by the Hercules-based company, including a pioneering test kit for thyroid function and a test for mad-cow disease, were. Bio-Rad today is globally renowned with more than 7,000 employees worldwide and revenues of more than $2 billion last year, according to the company.
"Mr. Schwartz served as Bio-Rad President, Chief Executive Officer, and as Chairman of the Board from the company’s incorporation in 1957 until 2003, when his son, Norman Schwartz, assumed the role of President and Chief Executive Officer," the company announcement said. "He remained Chairman of the Board until he died."
He served in World War II in the Army Signal Corps and then moved to the Bay Area to attend college, according to the Chemical Heritage Foundation biography. He had attended Brooklyn Technical High School, after passing through the Bay Area during the war, he was able to persuade his parents, Samuel and Jeanette Schwartz, and his sister to move to California, where he went to college on the GI Bill, according to an obituary in the Contra Costa Times.
While devoting himself chiefly to Bio-Rad, he also co-founded and served on the boards of several companiies. In 2007, he received the Pittcon Heritage Award.
One of his neighbors in El Cerrito's Arlington Park neigbhorhood said he was known to residents as unassuming and always friendly, and for wearing striped suspenders.
In addition to his wife and son Norman, survivors include son Steven, sister Ernestine Cohn and two grandchildren, according to the Contra Costa Times obituary.
A memorial gathering is being planned but details have not yet been set, a Bio-Rad spokeswoman said.