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James N. Pitts Jr.

by Susan J. Ainsworth
September 15, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 37

James N. Pitts Jr., 93, a professor of chemistry emeritus at the University of California, Riverside, died on June 19 in Irvine, Calif.

Born in Salt Lake City, Pitts served as a research scientist in chemical warfare for the National Defense Research Committee during World War II. After the war, he completed a B.S. in chemistry in 1945 and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1949, both from UCLA.

Pitts then served as an instructor and assistant professor of chemistry at Northwestern University, leaving in 1954 to join UC Riverside, then a new campus, as an associate professor. In 1961, he became a professor and the department’s first chair.

He was cofounder of the Statewide Air Pollution Research Center (SAPRC), serving as its director from 1970 until his retirement in 1988. During this time, SAPRC became an internationally known center for research in air pollution that laid the groundwork for the development of the field of atmospheric chemistry. Pitts was author or coauthor of 380 scientific publications and four books.

Pitts was also a visiting scientist at the Shell Development Laboratories in Emeryville, Calif.; a visiting scholar at the University of Washington, Seattle; an adjunct professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at California State University, Fullerton; and a visiting scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. From 1994 until the time of his death, he served as a research chemist at UC Irvine and as a scientific adviser to its Atmospheric Integrated Research program.

He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1946. He received many awards, including three from ACS: the Service through Chemistry Award from the Orange County Section in 1973, the Richard C. Tolman Medal of the Southern California Section in 1983, and the F. J. Zimmermann Award in Environmental Science from the Central Wisconsin Section in 1985.

His hobbies included tennis, fishing, and bird hunting.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara J. Finlayson-Pitts, whom he married in 1976; daughters, Linda Lee, Christie Hoffman, and Beckie St. George; former wife, Nancy; and six grandchildren.

Obituary notices of no more than 300 words may be sent to Susan J. Ainsworth at s_ainsworth@acs.or and should include an educational and professional history.



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