Otto Schnepp was born in 1925 in a Jewish family in Vienna, where his father was a medical doctor. In 1939, at the age of 13, he followed his parents to their exile in China. “It was kind of a hand-to-mouth life”, told Otto Schnepp later to the Los Angeles Times, when he bounced between the International Settlement and the French quarter, as his father continued to practice medicine. (link). Otto Schnepp attended the Shanghai Jewish School, and learned Chinese, French and Hebrew.
After the war, Schnepp studied chemistry at St. John’s University, Shanghai, where he earned his B.S. degree in 1947. In 1948, he moved to the US to study at the University of California, Berkeley, where in 1951 he received his Ph.D. in chemistry. Besides researching the area of optical molecular spectroscopy, he devoted his study and research on the science and technology of modern China, and on U.S.-China technology transfer.
From 1952 to 1965, Schnepp taught at Haifa University at the Institute of Technology. In 1965, he went to teach at the USC, Los Angeles, where he got a professorship in chemistry, and served as chair of the department until 1992. After the normalization of US-China relations, Schnepp served at the American embassy in Peking, as a counsellor for science and technology from 1980 to 1982. He was active in establishing the China Visiting Scholars Programme, and brought many Chinese scholars to the US, who after their return to China played an important role in strengthening natural sciences. Schnepp was awarded by the US government for his achievements.
In 1987, he was co-author of U.S.-China Technology Transfer: Problems and Solutions, and in 1990 of United States—China Technology Transfer. In 1992, Schnepp was awarded the renown USC Raubenheimer Outstanding Senior Faculty Award. From 1994 to 2000, he served as Director of the East Asian Studies Center. In the nineties, Schnepp participated in the Shanghai Jewish Community Oral History Project, Los Angeles, and in 2000 he took part in the USC Living History Project, where he talked about his experiences at universities in China, Israel and the US, and at the embassy in Peking. This is a valuable source of material about the academic cooperation. (link, accessed 2017.4.18, see the first photo below) From 2007 to 2009, Schnepp took part in an oral history project on the remembrance of world war II. link accessed 2017.4.18) (see the second photo below, Schnepp is the fourth from the right)