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John D. Corbett

by Susan J. Ainsworth
May 5, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 18

John D. Corbett.

John D. Corbett, 87, a distinguished professor of chemistry at Iowa State University and senior scientist at Ames Laboratory, died on Sept. 2, 2013, in Ames, Iowa.

Born in Yakima, Wash., Corbett served in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1944 until 1946. He received a B.S. in chemistry in 1948 and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1952, both from the University of Washington, Seattle.

Corbett then became an assistant professor in the chemistry department at Iowa State University and associate chemist at what is now Ames Laboratory. He was named a professor of chemistry at Iowa State in 1963 and distinguished professor in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in 1983. He served as chairman of the chemistry department from 1968 until 1973 and was program director in materials chemistry at Ames Laboratory from 1974 until 1978.

Publishing nearly 500 research articles, Corbett made a major impact on the field of synthetic inorganic solid-state chemistry and maintained an active research program until shortly before his death. His research focused on numerous areas, including metal-rich halides with interstitially stabilized clusters, Zintl phases, polar intermetallics, noncarbon fullerenes, and quasicrystals.

Corbett was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1951. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1992. He received the Humboldt Research Award in 1985, the ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry in 1986, the ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry in 2000, the Frank H. Spedding Award in 2005, and the ACS F. Albert Cotton Award in Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry in 2008.

Corbett is survived by his daughter, Julia; his son James; and three grandsons. His wife of almost 50 years, Irene, died in 1996. He was also predeceased by his son Scott, who died in 2009, and by a grandson, who died in 2011.

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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