Stephen Tibor Takats, 88, of Philadelphia, a former biology professor at Temple University and a painter of urban landscapes, died Sunday, March 31, of a heart attack at Einstein Medical Center.
Born in Englewood, N.J., to Hungarian immigrants, Dr. Takats graduated from Central High School in Binghamton, N.Y., where he grew up. His father, Zoltan, was a mechanical engineer who worked in the photographic and cinema industries.
Dr. Takats earned a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from Cornell University in 1952. He completed a master’s degree in 1954 and a doctoral degree in 1958, both from the University of Wisconsin School of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
He spent the next three years doing post-doctoral research in plant genetics in Upton, N.Y., and Glasgow, Scotland, before joining the Temple department of biology in 1961.
Dr. Takats served for a time as the department chair. He taught for a semester at Temple University in Tokyo in 1988. He published numerous research articles over the years, many on the study of how soybeans extract nitrogen from the soil, making an application of fertilizer unnecessary.
“My father had a lifelong interest in animals and farming,” said his son, Andy. “He kept goats as a child and always enjoyed gardening. Most of his research work was related to extending the soybean’s natural ability to thrive to other plants, and he taught a course at Temple on how ancient civilizations raised food.”
Dr. Takats retired in 1995. Several years before retiring, he resumed an interest he had as a boy in drawing and oil painting. He took classes at Fleisher Art Memorial and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
His creative drive blossomed into a second career. He sketched, painted, and created etchings of the urban environment in Philadelphia, some of it manmade, some natural.
“For many years, right up to his passing, he would drive around familiar North Philadelphia neighborhoods, stop and set up an easel, and paint, transforming the bleak urban blight into beautiful abstract landscapes,” said his son. “Many of the scenes he painted have been since demolished.”
His favorite painting spots were the neighborhoods near Temple, as well as Kensington and Manayunk. Outside the city, he focused on pastoral scenes in Erdenheim and West Chester.
He also painted on Cape Cod and in Italy.
Dr. Takats exhibited his works at Artists’ House Gallery, Chestnut Hill Gallery, and the F.A.N. Gallery, all in Philadelphia.
“My father was always eager to improve and learn more,” his son said. “In his last months, after recovering from a stay in the hospital, he had an artist colleague teach him white line printmaking at home.”
Dr. Takats was generous and modest. A bit of a stoic, he rarely complained about anything, his son said.
An avid hiker and backpacker, he traveled with family throughout the United States. He also found comfort in solitary activities such as playing the piano and reading.
Dr. Takats followed the Phillies. He had a sweet tooth and a love of poppyseed cakes that reminded him of his Hungarian roots.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 58 years, Martha Carroll Takats; sons David and Michael; five grandchildren; and a sister.
A memorial gathering will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 14, at the Allens Lane Art Center, 601 W. Allens Lane, Philadelphia, Pa. 19119. Burial is private.