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Eugene E. van Tamelen

by Susan J. Ainsworth
January 18, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 3

van Tamelen

Eugene E. van Tamelen, 84, an internationally known organic chemist and professor emeritus at Stanford University, died of cancer on Dec. 12, 2009.

Best known for the biologically inspired syntheses of complex natural substances, van Tamelen made fundamental contributions that bridged chemical disciplines, connecting organic chemistry with inorganic, physical, and biological chemistry.

Born in Zeeland, Mich., van Tamelen received a bachelor’s degree from Hope College, Holland, Mich., in 1947. He had originally planned to carve out a career in automobile design but became interested in three-dimensional space at the molecular level after taking an organic chemistry class. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Harvard University in 1950.

Van Tamelen joined the University of Wisconsin’s chemistry faculty, becoming a full professor in 1959 and later being named its Homer Adkins Professor of Chemistry. He accepted a professorship at Stanford in 1962 and served as chairman of its chemistry department from 1972 to 1978. He retired in 1987.

He published hundreds of papers and received numerous honors, including the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry in 1961, the Leo Hendrik Baekeland Award of the ACS North Jersey Section in 1965, and the ACS Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry in 1970. He was a member of ACS from 1950 to 1985.

The founding and longtime editor of the journal Bio-Organic Chemistry, van Tame­len was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was named one of the 20th century’s best scientists by England’s International Biographical Center.

Van Tamelen is survived by his wife, Mary; his two daughters, Jane and Carey Haughy; his son, Peter; and five grandchildren.



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