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Irwin A. Pearl

by Susan J. Ainsworth
July 14, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 28

Irwin A. Pearl, 100, a senior scientist at the Institute of Paper Chemistry in Appleton, Wis., died on May 14 in Wilmington, Del.

Born and raised in Seattle, Pearl earned a B.S. in 1934, an M.S. in 1935, and a Ph.D. in 1937, all in organic chemistry from the University of Washington, Seattle.

Pearl was a research associate in organic chemistry at the University of Washington until 1941. During that time, he also worked as lab supervisor at the Washington State Department of Conservation & Development and for the Apple Growers Association.

He served as a senior scientist at the Institute of Paper Chemistry from 1941 until 1976, specializing in the chemistry of lignin and paper mill by-products.

Of his many career accomplishments, he was most proud of the work he did to develop ethyl vanillate, which saved the lives of people infected with fungal diseases including histoplasmosis and coccidioidomycosis. He also conducted research that helped reduce pollution in the pulp and paper industry.

Pearl held 59 U.S. patents and more than 100 foreign patents. He published and lectured widely on topics related to lignin chemistry; authored “The Chemistry of Lignin,” which was published in 1967; and contributed to “The Handbook of Chemistry & Physics.”

He was a member of ACS for 80 years; he joined the society in 1935 and was still an active emeritus member at the time of his death.

A generous philanthropist, Pearl served the Appleton Jewish community in many functions and was active in the Boy Scouts, the American Philatelic Society, and the U.S. Power Squadrons, a nonprofit educational organization aimed at improving maritime safety.

He was predeceased by his wife of 66 years, Lillian. He is survived by his daughter, Cheryl Kamm; son, Hugh; 12 grandchildren; and 14 great-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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