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Gregory L. Hillhouse

by Stephen K. Ritter , Susan J. Ainsworth
June 9, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 23

Gregory L. Hillhouse

Gregory L. Hillhouse, 59, a professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago, died March 6 of cancer at his home in Chicago.

Born in Greenville, S.C., Hillhouse received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, in 1976 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Indiana University in 1980. Before joining the University of Chicago faculty as an assistant professor in 1983, he was a postdoctoral research associate at California Institute of Technology.

Hillhouse was known for his work in manipulating small nitrogen-containing compounds such as N2O, N3R, and HN═NH via low-coordinate nickel and other organometallic complexes to carry out atom-transfer chemical reactions. For example, his achievements included the first examples of N2O-based oxidations to give metal alkoxides or aryloxides, as well as the related conversion of nickel alkyls to nickel amides via nitrene transfer from N3R. The latter work led to reactions that form new C–O and C–N bonds.

In addition, his team’s report of the first group 10 metal terminal imido complex, followed by reports of related carbenes and phosphinidenes, helped spark growth in the chemistry of multiple bonding in late-transition-metal compounds.

Hillhouse received the ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry in 2013. He also received the 1997 Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the 2011 Norman Maclean Faculty Award. The department of chemistry at the University of Chicago established the Gregory L. Hillhouse Memorial Chemistry Undergraduate Fund to support an annual lecture and summer undergraduate research fellowships.

Hillhouse, who joined ACS in 1976, was an excellent intramural basketball player and enjoyed painting, cooking, and collecting fine wine.

Hillhouse is survived by a cousin, Denise Burckhalter.

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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