s I write this tribute to Marijan Bošković—colleague and friend—I am aware that my goals are, from the beginning, unachievable. It is too early to sum up Marijan's life and accomplishments because his life ended too soon for their meaning and impact to be fully appreciated; at the same time, for those who did not know him, it is too late for even this incomplete introduction. I knew Marijan for only a relatively short period of time and so writing this tribute feels to me like exploring a room full of treasures with only a flashlight for illumination. But I feel honored to be in the company of his family and friends as we pool our lamps to shed light on Marijan's character and talents.
Marijan Bošković passed away on August 6, 2008, after a four-month illness. Born in 1939 in Zagreb, Croatia, Marijan began translating and interpreting in the early 1960s. In the course of his career, in addition to translating and interpreting between Croatian and English, he translated from Serbian, Slovenian, Russian, Macedonian, and Bulgarian into English, and from these languages plus Italian, German, and Polish into Croatian. He also read and understood Czech, French, and Spanish. His primary areas of expertise were food science and technology, nutrition, chemistry, and chemical engineering. He also translated more general texts as well as articles about photography, the arts, travel and tourism, and sports.
Marijan became an active member of the American Translators Association in 1978. He was instrumental in the recent initiative to add Croatian to the ATA Certification Program, working tirelessly and passionately to achieve this goal. He served as Language Chair and grader for the English into Croatian language pair from its inception in 2004 until 2006. Marijan was also active in Croatian cultural initiatives. He served on the Executive Council of the Croatian Academy of America in 1993; from 1994 to 2002 he collected books and journals for university and corporate food departments in Croatia.
Marijan received his undergraduate degree in Biotechnology from the University of Zagreb in 1963. In 1963 and 1964 he was a Senior Instructor at the Faculty of Biotechnology there, and in 1965 worked as a research assistant at the Food Technology Institute. One of his credits from around that time is a co-translation into English of Kuzman Ražnjević's Handbook of Thermodynamic Tables and Charts, published in the U.S. in 1976.
After graduating, Marijan attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Boston) as a Fulbright Scholar, working on a joint NASA project. He was one of the first Croatians to attain an advanced degree there, receiving an M.S. in Food Science and Technology in 1968.
While at M.I.T., he met his wife-to-be, Mary, who lived nearby in Cambridge at the time. A native of Boston, she was employed at Boston University Medical School conducting drug studies relating to attention. The two were introduced by a mutual acquaintance, a scientist who knew them both through their respective universities. They married, and together returned to Zagreb, where Marijan continued his studies and where they eventually started a family. Their daughter Helena was born in 1971 and son Adam in 1972.
Marijan led an active professional and social life in Zagreb. In addition to pursuing his doctorate in Biotechnology, he served in the Zagreb City Assembly from 1969 to 1972 as a Councilor of Cultural and Educational Affairs. He was also active in PDS Velebit, the university mountaineering club. According to a recent tribute on the club's bulletin board, he was known as "Bolt" Bošković, and made the group famous by establishing and leading "Team Velebit" to success in the popular quiz show, Znaš - znam [You know - I know]. He continued teaching, translating and interpreting, including providing simultaneous interpretation into Croatian of the Apollo 13 space-ground communications during three live broadcasts by TV Zagreb (1970). He also interviewed the Apollo 13 astronauts when they visited Yugoslavia.
After receiving his doctorate in 1972, Marijan was immediately hired as a quality assurance chemist by Coca-Cola's European headquarters in Rome, and was soon busy setting up the first Coca-Cola bottling plants in "Eastern Bloc" countries, such as Poland. But in deference to Mary's longing to return to her native Boston, the family moved to the U.S. in 1974. Marijan found work in R&D at a small food company called Brady Enterprises in Hingham, not far from Boston. In 1979, Marijan got a job at General Foods, and the family moved to New Jersey. He stayed with General Foods (now Kraft Foods), progressing from Research Scientist to Research Specialist to Research Principal, the position he held upon retiring in 2002. Marijan made many important contributions to his field over the course of his career. His 1979 paper on the isomerization of lycopene is widely cited and is one of the first to suggest the nutritional value of lycopene as an antioxidant. Another area of expertise was in "flavor encapsulation," a process used in powdered food mixes and drinks like Sugar-Free Tang, which Marijan developed in the 1980s. He received a patent for an improved method of flavor encapsulation on behalf of Kraft General Foods in 1991. Marijan was an Emeritus Member of both the American Chemical Society and the Institute of Food Technologists, and co-founded a chapter of the I.F.T.
Marijan's children, Helena and Adam, grew up in Rome, Italy, then Hingham, Massachusetts, and finally Hopewell, New Jersey. Adam recounts, "My sister and I actually spoke Croatian, Italian, and English all at the same time, but I think my parents wanted us to learn English from Mom, Croatian from Dad, and Italian from our babysitter and the people around us in Rome. We associate the tender things Dad said to us with the Croatian language, and that is how I will remember him."
To the question of his parents' outside interests while he and his sister were growing up, Adam said, "They really devoted themselves to us as much as they possibly could. Dad's interests rarely took him beyond reading a book right next to us in the study, and I often think of him reading.
"In the late seventies, economics prohibited travel as my father worked on his citizenship and a new job. Dad started his yearly trips to Croatia in the eighties, and his relatives visited us here. My sister and I visited Croatia as teenagers. My father and I traveled together in 1997, and that is a trip I will always remember. He wanted to begin the trip in Prague, his favorite European city after Zagreb. I recall taking a bus from the airport to the main train station and then Dad casually telling me that we didn't yet have a place to stay, which of course made me very anxious. He told me to wait on a bench with our things and went off to make arrangements. Twenty minutes later we were all set with a very reasonable bed-and-breakfast-type place in the city center. Dad amazed me in Prague. We were standing at a statue when French tourists came by and tried to read the lengthy Latin inscription at the base of the statue. Dad heard them speaking and translated the Latin inscription into French for them. They complemented him on his command of the language."
As Adam indicates, Marijan loved to travel, visiting locations as far-flung as St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Argentina. He had been looking forward to visiting Macchu Picchu in the coming year. He also attended ATA conferences from 2002 to 2006, always making it a point to explore the host cities and surrounding attractions.
Marijan was a true scientist-explorer and a true friend. He did not tolerate complacency, and counseled "respect authority" and "question authority" in equal measure, delighting in the contradiction. He was a passionate and tireless advocate, first for the Croatian language, and later for the ATA Croatian Language Initiative, and he embraced his friends and colleagues with the same enthusiasm and devotion. Those who knew him will miss his curiosity, his kindness and his zest for life.