Rudiger “Roger” Haugwitz, a chemist at the National Cancer Institute who used his scientific expertise to create novel artworks that were exhibited in the United States and Europe, died July 18 at Montgomery Hospice’s Casey House in Rockville after a stroke. He was 79 and had been a Bethesda resident.
Dr. Haugwitz had lived in the Washington area since 1982, when he began research at the National Cancer Institute. He worked to develop anti-cancer drugs, including derivatives of the chemotherapy drug Taxol, for more than two decades until his retirement in 2006.
He held more than 100 U.S. patents and wrote more than 40 scientific journal articles. He received a prestigious National Institutes of Health award for productivity in his research.
Dr. Haugwitz saw chemistry not just as a tool to fight cancer but also as the foundation for artistic expression. Experimenting at home, he discovered how to create rich dyes by combining gold chloride and other such metal salts with agents including nitrogen, sulfur and oxygen.
“Probably fewer than 5 percent of my experiments yield something interesting,” he once told Washingtonian magazine. “But that’s how science works — you keep trying until you hit upon something interesting.”
Dr. Haugwitz used his chemical pigments to fashion abstract images on paper and canvas, and later on asphalt, foil and rubber. He called the medium “chemography.”
His work appeared publicly for the first time in 1969, when it was exhibited in a New York gallery alongside lithographs by celebrated artists such as Marc Chagall and Joan Miro.
In the decades since, Dr. Haugwitz exhibited his art in galleries in Washington and as far away as Berlin.
Rudiger Dieter Haugwitz was born April 4, 1932, in Koenigsberg, East Prussia, a part of Germany that became Russian territory after World War II.
His father was killed during the war, and Dr. Haugwitz and his mother and siblings fled to western Germany to find refuge from advancing Russian troops.
At 24, Dr. Haugwitz worked his way to the United States in the galley of an ocean liner. He graduated from Washington State University in 1961 and received a doctorate in organic chemistry from Indiana University.
Before moving to the Washington area, Dr. Haugwitz worked in Princeton, N.J., for the pharmaceutical company now known as Bristol-Myers Squibb.
He completed more than a dozen marathons. In 1996, he was recognized by NIH’s Department of Transfusion Medicine for having given blood 100 times.
His marriage to Margret Kolbe ended in divorce.
Survivors include a daughter, Malin Haugwitz of Bethesda; his ex-wife’s son whom Dr. Haugwitz helped raise, Paul Kolbe of New York; a brother; two sisters; and two grandchildren.