David Y. Curtin | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 42 | p. 68 | Obituaries
Issue Date: October 17, 2011

David Y. Curtin

Department: ACS News
Keywords: people

David Y. Curtin, 90, professor of chemistry emeritus at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, died on July 31.

Born in Philadelphia, Curtin received an A.B. degree from Swarthmore College in 1943. He carried out his graduate work under Charles C. Price at the University of Illinois, Urbana, where he obtained a Ph.D. degree in 1945. Curtin spent a year doing postdoctoral work at Harvard University with Louis Fieser.

He joined the staff of Columbia University as an instructor in 1946. During his five years there, he formulated what ultimately became known as the Curtin-Hammett principle, used for analyzing the chemical kinetics of certain types of organic reactions.

Curtin returned to Illinois in 1951, remaining there for the duration of his career. His research focused on the mechanistic study of a variety of chemical reactions, including additions, eliminations, and rearrangements.

A pioneer in the field of physical organic chemistry, Curtin turned his attention to solid-state organic chemistry. In the mid-1960s, he began studying the correlation of chemical reactivity in the solid state with crystal structure. He continued working in this area until his retirement in 1988.

Curtin published nearly 200 journal articles and was a coauthor of the 7th edition of the popular textbook “The Systematic Identification of Organic Compounds.”

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1964 and was an emeritus member of ACS, which he joined in 1943.

In 2006, Curtin and his wife moved to Florida.

He is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Connie; son, David; and daughters, Susan and Jane.

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