Issue Date: April 4, 2011
Russell W. Peterson
Russell W. Peterson, 94, former DuPont research chemist and governor of Delaware, died in Wilmington, Del., on Feb. 21 after a stroke.
A native of Portage, Wis., Peterson earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1942.
He joined DuPont as a research chemist in Wilmington and helped develop products including Dacron polyester fiber. He ultimately rose to become director of the firm’s R&D Division. After 26 years with DuPont, Peterson, who had long been active in local politics, served as governor of Delaware from 1969 to 1973. He served on then-governor of New York Nelson A. Rockefeller’s Commission on Critical Choices for Americans until President Richard M. Nixon named him in 1973 as chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, a role he continued under President Gerald R. Ford.
In 1976, Peterson became president and chief executive officer of New Directions, a citizens’ action group. He became director of the congressional Office of Technology Assessment in 1978 but left the year after to become president of the National Audubon Society, a lifelong ambition for the avid bird watcher. In the late 1980s, he served as visiting professor at Dartmouth College, Carleton College, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
An emeritus member of ACS who joined in 1943, Peterson received the society’s 1974 Charles Lathrop Parsons Award, which honors outstanding public service by a member.
He is survived by his wife, June; sons, R. Glen and Peter J.; daughters, Kristin P. Havill and Elin P. Sullivan; and 17 grandchildren. Peterson’s first wife, Lillian, died in 1994.
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