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William B. Smith

by Susan J. Ainsworth
November 12, 2012 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 90, ISSUE 46

Credit: TCU Chemistry Department
Credit: TCU Chemistry Department

William B. Smith, 84, a professor of chemistry emeritus at Texas Christian University (TCU), died on June 24 at the James L. West Alzheimer Center in Fort Worth.

Born in Muncie, Ind., Smith earned a B.A. in chemistry from Kalamazoo College in 1949 and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Brown University in 1954. He served as a postdoctoral fellow with John E. Leffler at Florida State University and Morris S. Kharasch at the University of Chicago.

Smith then joined the chemistry faculty at Ohio University, in Athens, in 1955, rising to the rank of associate professor. He moved to TCU in 1960 as a Robert A. Welch Foundation Visiting Scientist, becoming a full professor and chair of the school’s chemistry department one year later.

Smith supervised the formation of TCU’s Ph.D. program in chemistry, for which he obtained one of the first Varian A-60 nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers in Texas.

Smith published more than 125 papers and three books on physical organic chemistry and NMR. Stepping down as department chair in 1981, he took a sabbatical at the University of Sussex, in England, and worked with John Cornforth, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1975 for his work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions. Smith retired in 1998, but continued conducting research until 2006.

He served on the editorial advisory board of the journal Magnetic Resonance in Chemistry. Smith received the 1989 TCU Chancellor’s Award for Research & Creative Activity and the 1990 W. T. Doherty Award of the Dallas-Fort Worth Section of ACS. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1950.

A watercolor artist and musician, Smith was also an avid sailor who raced competitively at the Fort Worth Boat Club.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Marian; sons, Mark and Frederick; daughter, Mary Felise Smith-Peters; and two grandchildren.

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



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