Richard Frank was born October 7, 1900, in Stuttgart, Germany to Stefan and Berta (Weissenburger) Frank. At the age of 2, the Franks moved to Brussels, Belgium, where they lived until Richard was 18. They had to flee Brussels and move back to Germany due to the German Army's invasion in World War I. Frank attended and graduated from Technische Hochschule, Stuttgart, Germany in 1921 with a focus in Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany in 1925. From 1925 to 1939, he worked as an industrial chemist until the spread of Nazism caused him to leave his job because of the political situation in Germany.
During the days of November 9-10, 1938, Frank and his family experienced Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. This event marked the first of many violent acts committed by Nazis against German Jews. During those nights Nazi storm troopers came to the Frank home, demanding the youngest male of Jewish heritage come with them. Although Frank was the youngest Jewish male in the home, he escaped arrest because he was ill and in bed. In Spring 1939, only months before the war broke out and Jews were stripped of all citizenship rights, he left for America. In 1941, Frank successfully helped his sister, Erna, flee Germany for the U.S. He was unsuccessful however, in helping his parents. They were transported to a concentration camp in Eastern Europe where they died, probably in 1943.
Frank lived in Milwaukee until 1948, where he worked as a Research Chemist for Harnischfeger Corporation. In 1948, he came to the University of North Dakota as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. In 1956, he was promoted to an Associate Professor. He married Mary Margaret French, head of the Grand Forks Public Library, in 1957. He retired from the UND Chemistry Department in 1968.
He was very active in the community and at UND. He was a member of the American Chemistry Society, Sigma Xi, and the American Association of Advancement of Science and Chairman of the Speaker's Bureau. At UND, he was on the University Committee on Recruitment for College Teaching and the Scholarship Committee. He introduced the Experiment in International Living and judged numerous science fairs. He also published several books in the field of Chemistry.
Richard E. Frank died March 1, 1995, at the age of 94.