Issue Date: November 29, 2010
Michael P. Cava
Michael P. Cava, 84, the Ramsay Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, died on Sept. 29, in Brookline, Mass.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Cava received a B.S. from Harvard University followed by an M.S. and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1948 and 1951, respectively.
Over the next two years as a postdoctoral fellow with R. B. Woodward at Harvard, Cava participated in the seminal total synthesis of strychnine.
He began his career as an assistant professor of chemistry at Ohio State University and rose through the ranks to become a full professor in 1965. He then moved to Wayne State University in Detroit until 1969, when he joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1985, he accepted the then newly created Ramsay Chair of Chemistry at the University of Alabama, a position he held until his retirement in 2004.
Cava’s research interests ranged from the chemistry of stable cyclobutadiene derivatives and biologically significant compounds to materials science studies aimed at the synthesis of new organic metals and nonlinear optical materials. With the late M. V. Lakshmikantham, his long-term research associate, Cava advanced the chemistry of organosulfur, selenium, and tellurium compounds.
He published almost 500 papers and coauthored a popular organic chemistry textbook. Cava was an emeritus member of ACS, which he joined in 1947.
He loved classical music, composed chamber music, and enjoyed gardening.
Cava’s first wife, Esther, whom he married in 1951, died in 1995. Cava is survived by his second wife, Armelle; his son, John; and one granddaughter.
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