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William F. Kieffer

by Susan J. Ainsworth
May 27, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 21

William F. Kieffer, 97, a professor emeritus of chemistry at the College of Wooster, in Ohio, died in the Cayman Islands on Dec. 26, 2012.

Born in Trenton, N.J., Kieffer earned a B.A. in chemistry at the College of Wooster in 1936, an M.S. in chemistry at Ohio State University in 1938, and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Brown University in 1940.

He spent his entire career in the chemistry department at Wooster, with the exception of a two-year stint as a faculty member at Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University).

He taught introductory chemistry, physical chemistry, and a popular chemistry-for-nonmajors course at Wooster. He served as department chair and wrote three textbooks: “The Mole Concept in Chemistry,” “Chemistry, A Cultural Approach,” and “Chemistry Today.” Kieffer also served as editor of the Journal of Chemical Education from 1955 until 1967.

In the 1960s, Kieffer received teaching awards from the Manufacturing Chemists’ Association (now the American Chemistry Council) and ACS. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1940.

Serving as chair of the advisory committee for ACS’s nationally televised “Continental Classroom” series, he led a campaign to expand and revolutionize high school instruction in chemistry.

Kieffer was one of 31 leading scientists to make up the National Science Foundation-sponsored Advisory Council on College Chemistry, established to promote effective chemistry instruction.

Kieffer’s daughter, Lois Boykin, survives him. His wife, Elaine, died in 2002.

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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