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Robert T. Morrison

by Susan J. Ainsworth
June 7, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 23

Robert T. Morrison, 91, a retired New York University (NYU) professor and coauthor of a best-selling organic chemistry textbook, died on April 25 at his home in Morristown, N.J., after a long illness.

Born in Lima, Ohio, Morrison earned an undergraduate degree from Wittenberg College, in Springfield, Ohio, in 1939 and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1944.

Morrison then served in the Navy in World War II as a radar officer and did postdoctoral work at Northwestern University. After that, he accepted a professorship at NYU, where he taught from 1948 until his early retirement in 1968.

Along with NYU colleague Robert N. Boyd, Morrison published the innovative textbook “Organic Chemistry” in 1959. This book was unlike previous texts, which emphasized memorization and relied on instructors to introduce the underlying mechanisms of organic chemistry. In contrast, the book by Morrison and Boyd presented the material more comprehensively and explained the mechanisms step by step. Through its six editions, it sold more than 2 million copies worldwide.

Morrison was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1943.

He is survived by his children, Robert, James, and Susan, and five grandchildren. Morrison’s wife of 66 years, Joan, died two months earlier.


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