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Roy L. Whistler

by Susan J. Ainsworth
March 8, 2010 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 88, ISSUE 10

Roy L. Whistler, 97, the Emeritus Hillenbrand Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry at Purdue University and a member of the ACS Board of Directors in the 1950s, died at his home on Feb. 7.

Born in Tiffin, Ohio, Whistler earned a B.S. in chemistry from Heidelberg College in 1934, an M.S. in chemistry from Ohio State University in 1935, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Iowa State University in 1938.

He began his career at the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards & Technology) in 1938, before serving as head of the Starch Structure Group of the Department of Agriculture’s Northern Regional Research Laboratory, in Peoria, Ill., from 1940 until 1945. He then accepted a position at Purdue, where he would spend most of his career.

Whistler made major contributions to the study of carbohydrate chemistry but was best known for pioneering research on polysaccharides, which he promoted for use in industrial applications. Whistler authored, coauthored, or edited numerous books, including “Polysaccharide Chemistry,” “Industrial Gums,” “Starch: Chemistry and Technology,” and the series “Methods in Carbohydrate Chemistry.”

He played a major role in the founding of the International Carbohydrate Organization and its International Carbohydrate Symposium.

He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1938. He was a member of the ACS Board of Directors from 1955 to 1958 and held many offices in the Division of Carbohydrate Chemistry and the Cellulose & Renewable Materials Division (CELL).

Whistler received many awards, including the ACS Claude S. Hudson Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry, CELL’s Anselme Payen Award, and the Kenneth A. Spencer Award from the ACS Kansas City Section.

At Purdue, a building, a carbohydrate research center, and a chair position are named in Whistler’s honor. The International Carbohydrate Organization also established an award in his name.

He founded the Roy Whistler Foundation in 1997 for the preservation of natural land and wildlife in the north central Indiana area.

Whistler was preceded in death by his wife, Lee. He is survived by a son, William; and three grandchildren.

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