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Dirk Stigter

by Susan J. Ainsworth
November 29, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 48

Dirk Stigter, 86, a distinguished theorist of the electrostatics of colloids, polyelectrolytes, and biopolymers, died on July 2 in Berkeley, Calif.

Born in Maassluis, the Netherlands, Stigter began his university study at the University of Utrecht. In 1943, after the outbreak of World War II and the invasion of the Netherlands, he was sent to work in a German factory until 1945. He then returned to the Netherlands, where he resumed his studies before moving to the U.S. and finishing his Ph.D. thesis in 1954 at the University of Southern California under Karol Mysels.

After briefly conducting research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Douglas Fuerstenau, Stigter again returned to the Netherlands to work at Royal Dutch Shell for several years. In 1957, he moved to Eugene, Ore., where he spent a year as a research associate, collaborating with John Schellman at the University of Oregon’s Institute of Molecular Biology.

He then joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Regional Research Laboratory in Albany, Calif., where he remained as an active researcher until 1982. He also spent a year as a USDA fellow at the University of Oregon, working with Terrell Hill.

Stigter then joined Ken A. Dill and his group at the University of California, San Francisco, where he researched protein stability and aggregation, protein-DNA interactions, and lipid bilayer membranes. Stigter contributed chapters on electrostatics to the physical chemistry textbook “Molecular Driving Forces,” written by Dill and Sarina Bromberg.

Stigter was best known for his rigorous theories explaining how the electrostatic solution properties of DNA and soap micelles arise from their underlying molecular structures. He was an emeritus member of ACS, which he joined in 1960.

He is survived by his wife, Nan; and daughters, Wendy Brock and Joyce.



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