Elbert G. (Al) Smith | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 22 | p. 59 | Obituaries
Issue Date: May 28, 2012

Elbert G. (Al) Smith

Department: ACS News
Keywords: obituaries

Elbert G. (Al) Smith, 98, a professor emeritus of chemistry at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., died on March 18.

Born in Eugene, Ore., Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Oregon State College in 1936 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Iowa State College in 1943.

After teaching chemistry at Hamline University, in St. Paul, and the University of Denver, he became an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He joined the Mills faculty as a professor of chemistry in 1958, remaining there until his retirement in 1978.

While at Mills, Smith was also a staff member of the National Research Council, working with chemical notation systems. He specialized in chemical structure information retrieval when molecular structures could not yet be drawn or searched readily by computer.

Smith helped develop and disseminate once widely used Wiswesser Line Notation, which describes the structure of a particular compound as a series of letters and numbers. The resulting string is searchable by computer. Smith wrote two books on the notation system. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1938.

Smith developed a program that identifies musical pieces based on a series of notes. This program, TuneFinder, is available online at karelia.com/tunefinder.

Smith is survived by his nephew, Milo Thomson.


Obituary notices of no more than 300 words may be sent to Susan J. Ainsworth at s_ainsworth@acs.org and should include an educational and professional history.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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