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Erlind M. (Erl) Thorsteinson

by Susan J. Ainsworth
January 16, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 3

Erlind M. (Erl) Thorsteinson, 74, a retired Union Carbide research chemist and corporate fellow, died of cancer in Charleston, W.Va., on Dec. 1, 2011.

Born in Springfield, Ill., Thorsteinson earned a B.A. in chemistry in 1960 from Bowdoin College, an M.A. in physical chemistry in 1963 from Wesleyan University, and a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry in 1966 from Northwestern University under Fred Basolo.

Thorsteinson joined Union Carbide in 1966, but was almost immediately inducted into the Army during the Vietnam War. He served in a chemical R&D role at the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, achieving the rank of captain and receiving the National Defense Service Medal.

Upon his discharge in 1968, he returned to Union Carbide, where he carried out research on homogeneous and hetero­geneous catalysts for production of acetic acid, acrolein, and acrylic acid. He discovered the unique behavior of vanadium-niobium-molybdenum catalysts for selective oxidative dehydrogenation of ethane.

Thorsteinson joined Union Carbide’s ethylene oxide catalyst research group in 1978, where he helped commercialize a new generation of ultra-high-efficiency catalysts for selective oxidation of ethylene.

Coauthor of numerous publications and credited with 14 U.S. patents, he was appointed a Union Carbide corporate fellow in 1994. After his retirement in 2001, he spent several years as a research associate with the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center in South Charleston, W.Va. He joined ACS in 1961.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret; son, Eric; daughter, Karin Hamer; and four grandchildren.


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