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John A. Shelnutt

by Susan J. Ainsworth
August 18, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 33

John A. Shelnutt

John A. Shelnutt, 68, of Watkinsville, Ga., died of acute myeloid leukemia on July 12 at Emory University Hospice in Atlanta.

Born in Bremen, Ga., Shelnutt received a B.S. in 1968 and an M.S. in 1971, both in physics at Georgia Institute of Technology. He served at the Naval Surface Warfare Center before returning to Georgia Tech to earn a Ph.D. in physics in 1975.

In graduate school, he developed a new way of interpreting vibrational spectroscopy data produced by Raman scattering. This work led him to Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, where he continued pioneering research in the area of Raman spectroscopy.

In 1979, Shelnutt moved to Albuquerque, N.M., to work at Sandia National Laboratories, conducting groundbreaking porphyrin research and subsequently becoming a distinguished member of the lab’s technical staff.

He served on the faculty of the University of New Mexico and, for the past 10 years, was an adjunct professor at the University of Georgia.

Shelnutt is credited with more than 200 papers published in peer-reviewed journals, numerous book chapters, and many patents.

He shared a 2009 Research & Development 100 Award for his research on nano­scale materials.

The Journal of Porphyrins & Phthalocyanines dedicated a special issue to Shelnutt on his 65th birthday. He joined ACS in 1980.

Shelnutt is remembered as a gentle and loving father and husband, a loyal friend, and an outstanding mentor to his students. A disciplined and accomplished athlete, he was a member of the Southwest Ballet in New Mexico and practiced the martial arts technique Chinese wushu.

He is survived by his wife of 17 years, Yan Qui; his sons, Julian and Judson; and five 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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