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Peter J. Wagner

Former JACS associate editor made photochemistry contributions

by Susan J. Ainsworth
September 14, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 37

Peter J. Wagner, 70, an accomplished photochemist, professor of chemistry emeritus at Michigan State University, and former associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, died on Aug. 6.

Born in Chicago on Christmas Day in 1938, Wagner graduated from Loyola University, in Chicago, with a B.S. in math and science in 1960. He earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1963, conducting research on free-radical chemistry under the direction of Cheves Walling. He then worked as a postdoctoral fellow with George S. Hammond at California Institute of Technology.

Wagner joined the chemistry faculty at Michigan State in 1965, where he gained international acclaim for his research on radical pair and biradical intermediates in photochemical reactions. In 1968, Wagner received an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship and was tenured as an associate professor. He was promoted to a full professor in 1970 and named a University Distinguished Professor in 1998. Before retiring last year, he had coauthored more than 150 papers.

Under a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, Wagner spent a sabbatical with Mostafa El-Sayed at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1971. Upon receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship, he took another sabbatical at the National Research Council of Canada, in Ottawa, working with Tito Scaiano on laser kinetics.

Wagner served as the associate editor of JACS from 1975 to 1985. He helped organize the 1980 IUPAC Conference on Photochemistry, in Seefeld, Austria, and was chair of the 1985 Gordon Research Conference on Organic Photochemistry.

He received the Inter-American Photochemical Society Award in Photochemistry in 2000. Wagner joined ACS in 1962.

He was a lifelong golfer and Chicago Cubs fan.

Wagner's wife, Mary, whom he married in 1963, died in 1997. He is survived by six children and one grandson.

Susan J. Ainsworth writes obituaries. Obituary notices may be sent to and should include a detailed educational and professional history.



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