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Fred Basolo Dies At 87

For six decades, former ACS president was an inorganic chemistry professor at Northwestern University

by Rachel Petkewich
March 5, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 10

Credit: Mitch Jacoby/C&EN
Credit: Mitch Jacoby/C&EN

Fred Basolo, Charles E. & Emma H. Morrison Emeritus Professor in the chemistry department at Northwestern University, died on Feb. 27 of pneumonia. He was 87.

An emeritus member of the American Chemical Society, Basolo joined ACS in 1942, chaired the Division of Inorganic Chemistry in 1970, and served as ACS president in 1983.

"Fred was an absolutely wonderful mentor who had a profound impact on the course of inorganic chemistry," says Harry B. Gray, a former student of Basolo's and currently a professor of chemistry at California Institute of Technology. "He enormously influenced our lives and our science."

Basolo was "a man with an encyclopedialike mind for chemistry, a quick smile and wink, and a hearty laugh,"says Alvin L. Crumbliss, another one of Basolo's former Ph.D. students, now a chemistry professor at Duke University.

Born to Italian immigrant parents, Basolo received a bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University (1940) and graduate degrees in inorganic chemistry from the University of Illinois (M.S., 1942; Ph.D., 1943).

For three years, he worked at Rohm and Haas in Philadelphia as a research chemist before he started at Northwestern in 1946. He chaired the department there in 1969-72 and received emeritus status in 1990.

Basolo's research at Northwestern included synthesis and reaction mechanisms of transition-metal Werner complexes and some seminal work in organometallic and bioinorganic chemistry. In addition, "he stimulated young chemists to expand into emerging areas such as biomedical chemistry and nanotechnology," says Thomas O'Halloran, a colleague at Northwestern. Basolo also made strides "both locally through his warm mentorship and globally through his leadership in the international science community," O'Halloran adds.

Basolo's awards included membership in the National Academy of Sciences; the Priestley Medal, ACS's highest honor, in 2001; and the ACS George Pimentel Award in Chemical Education in 1992.

Basolo's wife died before him. He is survived by four children, all of whom became educators, and 11 grandchildren.



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