If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.




by Victoria Gilman
October 4, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 40

George A. (Alex) Mills, a research chemist who made major contributions to industrial catalytic processes, died on April 28 at the age of 90.

Mills was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and became a U.S. citizen in 1942. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Saskatchewan and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Mills was a chemist for more than 40 years and contributed to advancements in hydrocarbon fuels and petrochemicals, including the polyurethane additive DABCO.

From 1940 to 1968, he served as director of research at Houdry Process Corp. (which later became Air Products) in Marcus Hook, Pa. He left Houdry in 1969 to join the Department of Energy, serving as chief of the coal division, Bureau of Mines, and director of the Office of International Cooperation, Fossil Energy, until 1981. Mills then served as executive director of the Center for Catalytic Science & Technology at the University of Delaware until 1984.

For ACS, Mills served as chair of the Division of Petroleum Chemistry in 1973 and as chair of the Division of Fuel Chemistry in 1978. ACS honored Mills's work with the 1975 Henry H. Storch Award in Fuel Chemistry and the 1981 E.V. Murphree Award in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry. He also received the Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists and was a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Mills is survived by his wife, Roberta; four children; 10 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. Joined ACS in 1938; emeritus member.


James W. Neckers, retired professor and former chair of the department of chemistry and biochemistry at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIUC), died on May 8, three weeks after celebrating his 102nd birthday.


A native of Clymer, N.Y., Neckers graduated from Hope College, Holland, Mich., in 1923, then went on to receive a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1927. Upon graduation, he began his lifelong career at SIUC, which was known at the time as Southern Illinois Normal University. In 1929, he became head of the chemistry and biochemistry department, a position he held for the next 36 years.

Neckers served as chemistry chair at SIUC at a time when the entire university was entering an extensive growth period, and he helped transform the school from a teachers college into a full-fledged university. During his tenure, the chemistry department expanded from four to 24 faculty members, won its first ACS CPT approval, and added master's programs in 1956 and doctoral programs in 1961.

As a teacher, Neckers was known among peers for bringing out the best in his students, two of whom--Fred Basolo and Daryle H. Busch--have served as ACS president. In 1940, Neckers coauthored a freshman manual called "Experimental General Chemistry." The book is used by more than 200 universities and colleges and has gone through four editions.

Neckers contributed to university life by helping to create the current university retirement system for faculty and helping with the formation of the SIUC Faculty Senate. He also established an endowment that funds scholarships for students and guest lecturers. In addition to SIUC activities, Neckers served as president of the Illinois Academy of Science and was active in the Illinois Teachers Association and the American Association of University Professors.

Neckers retired from teaching in 1967, but he remained active in campus life. In 1970, the university dedicated the James W. Neckers Building, which houses SIUC's physical sciences programs.

Neckers was preceded in death by his wife, Jean, and a daughter. He is survived by another daughter, three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Joined ACS in 1925; emeritus member.


David A. Pearce, a senior research chemist retired from Mobil Oil Corp., died on May 12 at the age of 83.

A native of Montreal, Quebec, Pearce earned a B.Sc. from Sir George Williams College (now Concordia University) in 1952. Prior to graduating, he held positions with Canada's National Steel Car Corp. from 1940 to 1943 and Sherwin Williams Co.'s Montreal laboratories starting in 1944.

Pearce moved to Pittsburgh in 1956 to join Chemagro and was transferred to Kansas City, Mo., a year later. In 1965, he moved to Edison, N.J., to join Mobil, where he researched the formulation chemistry of agricultural products and petrochemicals.

In his personal life, Pearce pursued an eclectic mix of hobbies, from biking to reading science fiction to dabbling in automobile mechanics. He was also a substitute teacher and contributor to charitable causes, including a request to donate his brain for research after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Pearce was preceded in death by his wife, Janet, and a granddaughter. He is survived by two daughters and four grandchildren. Joined ACS in 1959; emeritus member.


Cecil R. Smith, an internationally recognized researcher in organic chemistry, died on Feb. 6 at the age of 79.

Born in Denver, Smith earned bachelor's and master's degrees in organic chemistry at the University of Colorado and a Ph.D. at Wayne State University, Detroit, in 1955. After a year of postdoctoral work at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, Smith joined the Northern Regional Research Center (NRRC) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Peoria, Ill., where he stayed until 1985.

Smith's research involved unusual lipids, alkaloids, and other natural products, with an emphasis on biologically active compounds such as cephalotaxus. His group did work leading to the potential anticancer agent harringtonine.

In 1984, Smith was awarded the Alton E. Bailey Award of the North Central Section of the American Oil Chemists Society for "greatly increasing the fundamental knowledge of the diversity, structure, and chemistry of lipids of higher plants."

After leaving NRRC, Smith worked at Arizona State University's Cancer Research Institute, Tempe, from 1986 to 1988. In addition, he held positions at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo; Southern University, Baton Rouge, La.; Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles, Gif-sur-Yvette, France; and the USDA Western Cotton Research Lab, Phoenix.

Smith maintained memberships in ACS, the American Oil Chemists Society, Sigma Xi, and the American Society of Pharmacognosy. With intense interests in social action, he was a participant in the Religious Society of Friends, Planned Parenthood, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Democratic Party.

Smith is survived by his wife, Donna; three children; and two grandchildren. Joined ACS in 1948; emeritus member.

Obituaries are written by Victoria Gilman.
Obituary notices may be sent by e-mail to and should include detailed educational and professional history.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.