Sheldon Green


Sheldon Jay Green
12 Jul 1944 - 12 Dec 1995
Times Squares

Sheldon Green died on Tuesday, December 12. The Club will miss him greatly. He had supported the Club in many ways; past board member, archangel and booked all the callers for Club Night, social and special dances for five years. He is survived by club member Bruce Haas. Bruce has asked that donations be made in Sheldon’s name to PFLAG. In Sheldon’s honor, the Board of Times Squares has named the annual Valentine’s Dance the Sheldon Green Valentine Day Dance. -- Larry Sauer[1]

For a listing of his publications, please see this entry in Google Scholar.


Dr. Sheldon Green, a theoretical chemist for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Manhattan, died on Tuesday at St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center. He was 51 and lived in Greenwich Village.

The cause was a heart attack, said the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a NASA laboratory in Morningside Heights where he worked.

Dr. Green, who received a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry from Harvard University in 1971, was an authority on the properties of molecules in outer space, a rare interstellar phenomenon. He contributed more than 100 papers to scientific journals and provided the theoretical models that enabled radio astronomers to recognize such molecules in their observations.

Dr. Green is survived by his parents, Bernard and Florence Green of Silver Spring, Md.; two sisters, Joanne Wolinsky of Laurel, Md., and Bonnie Grabelle of Columbia, Md., and his companion, Bruce Haas.[2]

Sheldon Green.jpg


When I first knew Sheldon, in January of 1979, he had a stubborn, feisty, energetic, lively little dog, a Toto look-alike Cairn Terrier named Kip. Seeing each of them pulling in opposite directions on opposing ends of the leash was a bit of a psychic palindrome, like seeing an image and its reflection at the same time.

Who was this man with his so similar dog? He was many people. He was a caring and responsible son, often camouflaging his sense of the importance of family, fearing to seem sentimental. He was a quiet determined fighter for social justice. He acted daily upon his convictions, fighting bigotry, racism, sexism, and homophobia in his quotidian pursuits. Sheldon was a teacher, despite his aversion for running a classroom. His natural curiosity was contagious, and he loved to share what he knew with others. He taught me the word, quotidian, meaning daily!

Sheldon was a quick learner, too. After assisting for a day the electrician that we had hired as a part of a renovation project, he learned the technical names for the parts, and realizing that he knew far more about the theory, and was good with his hands, took over the project entirely. Thereafter he was the staff electrician. In general, he was Mr. Fix-it. The doorbell at my house may never work again.

Not content merely to act for social change, he was generous in supporting a large number of causes. To my limited knowledge he supported PFLAG, the Sierra Club, the Center, the ACLU, People for the American Way, NOW, and the Bob Keane Scholarship for Gays and Lesbians. When the Times Squares faced a fiscal crisis, he along with a small number of others, stood ready to make the club financially viable if bootstrap efforts failed. He was, however a closet philanthropist, never really mentioning his generosity.

Sheldon was a renowned scientist. Shortly after meeting him and learning of his esoteric work, I asked if he was famous. With typical understatement, he replied that he was known in his field. My search of the Science Citation Index revealed many pages of dense type attesting to the importance of his work. I gradually learned that his authorship of Molscat, a computer program for studying molecules, was the international scientific standard. Trips to England, France, Italy, and Canada all resulted from the needs of the scientific community to adapt this work to special projects. Even on the brink of leaving us, yet another paper was in the works.

It was not just computer cards and numbers for him. Sheldon was, as a scientist, a writer. His fine, sparse, precise, elegant prose is really poetically polished. His love of words made him a theatre aficionado, a reader. His mind was constantly active.

Many of us knew Sheldon primarily as a square dancer. The intellectual challenge, the exercise, and the friendship were important to him. His devotion to the Times Squares, his skill and knowledge, and his responsible nature made him a natural choice when the club’s long time caller booking agent needed to resign. For more than five year, Sheldon auditioned, cajoled, lured, bargained with, developed and encouraged callers, from the newest beginner to the top in the business. His tenacious and relentless work paid big dividends for the club’s programming, the development of dancers skill and taste, and the stature of the Times Squares.

Sheldon performed numerous other tasks that made the club run. Not only did he book, meet, and greet callers, he co-directed Peel the Pumpkin one year, coordinated pier dancing for several summers, and wrote for the Times Squared. It was Sheldon who set up the Times Squares home page on the World Wide Web. With Steve Messemer from Chi Town Squares, he set up the IAGSDC web site, hosting it first himself, and then, after political trouble, arranged for the site to live at another location.

This was not all of Sheldon's square dance activity. He was often our conscience, warning what would happen if the Club did something he believed to be foolish. On the dance floor, he prompted us to know our definitions, and worked hard to keep from putting us in our places too often! He took his dancing seriously. Naturally graceful, Sheldon was an accomplished ballroom dancer, and even learned round dancing, both parts! His aptitude for the physical took other forms. As a bicyclist he was fearless and indefatigable, neither cars nor little old ladies with shopping carts daunted him. He ran many very fine bicycles into the ground.

Sheldon, in his subtle and self-deprecatory way, was quite a social creature; a gourmet, and an oenophile, he liked to cook for friends. At table, and otherwise, he often amused and often puzzled his friends with his quick sharp wit.

Sheldon was a committed partner, caring, devoted, generous and tenacious with those closest to him. His love and his caring for Bruce was a joy to all who know them. The surprising thing is really to discover what a renaissance man Sheldon was. He was so quiet about his accomplishment, so slow to reveal his virtues to the scrutiny of others. The more interesting thing is to note how present Sheldon was, and is in many of our lives. Even from a great distance in time and space, for his friends he has been so very much with us all, having his effect on us.

In his life he was modest, generous and caring, and so it was in his death, too. Chest pains in August did not translate into whining and complaining all fall. As a scientist, he looked for information and a solution. Participating in the scientific method of diagnosis, he was never impatient. He left us quickly, not burdening us with his pain, or much worse, having to bear a long run of suffering himself. Like the little dog, Kippie, Sheldon never suffered long illness and an infirm old age. Like his writing, his death was clean and spare. We are the richer for having been in his story. We are all poorer at its close.-- F William Chickering[3]


  1. Times Squared newsletter, v.11 no.5 (Jan 1996), p.2
  2. The New York Times, Dec 16, 1995.
  3. Times Squared newsletter, v.11 no.6 (Feb 1996), p.2-3