Sidney W. Benson | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 13 | p. 58 | Obituaries
Issue Date: March 26, 2012

Sidney W. Benson

Department: ACS News
Keywords: obituaries

Sidney W. Benson, 93, University of Southern California (USC) distinguished professor of chemistry emeritus, died on Dec. 30, 2011, at his home in Brentwood, Calif., because of complications from a stroke.

Born in New York City, Benson earned an A.B. degree with honors in chemistry, physics, and mathematics in 1938 at Columbia University and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1941 from Harvard University under George B. Kistiakowsky.

After teaching briefly at the City College of New York, Benson served as a group leader at Kellex Corp. as part of the Manhattan Project. He joined USC in 1943 and remained there until 1963, when he accepted a position at Stanford Research Institute.

He returned to USC in 1976, becoming scientific codirector with George A. Olah of what is now Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.

A world-renowned expert in thermochemistry and the kinetics of chemical reactions, Benson published more than 500 scientific papers and books on physical chemistry. His studies of reactions involving free radicals are critical to current understanding of atmospheric chemistry and combustion. Benson retired in 1994.

Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1981, Benson received numerous awards from USC, as well as the ACS Award in Petroleum Chemistry (now the George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry) in 1977. In 2008, Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss pledged $7.5 million to USC Dornsife to be used in part to establish an endowed chair in honor of Benson, who had been his mentor at USC. Benson was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1940.

He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Anna; son, Nicholas; daughter, Jeannette Hamilton; stepchildren, Mara Lee Maltauro, Sumishta Brahm, and Mark Seldis; and one granddaughter.

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