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Henry A. Bent

by Susan J. Ainsworth
March 23, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 12

Credit: Courtesy of Henry A. Bent
Photo of Henry A. Bent.
Credit: Courtesy of Henry A. Bent

Henry A. Bent, 88, an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, died in Pittsburgh on Jan. 3.

Born in Cambridge, Mass., Bent served in the Navy during World War II. He earned an A.B. from Oberlin College, in Ohio, in 1949 and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1952.

Bent was an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, before serving as a professor of inorganic chemistry at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, from 1958 until 1969. For the next 20 years, he was a professor of physical chemistry at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Bent then joined the chemistry department at the University of Pittsburgh, serving as director of an outreach program that took dynamic science demonstrations to area schools. He retired in 1992.

In his research, Bent investigated exclusive orbital molecular models. He developed Bent’s rule on hybridization and valence bond structures, authored four books, and is credited with more than 100 articles.

Bent was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1953 and serving as chair of its Division of Chemical Education and its Committee on Professional Training. He received the George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education in 1980.

Bent came from a family of chemists, including his late father, Henry E. Bent, who was an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and his late son, Brian, who was a professor of chemistry at Columbia University.

Bent ran his first marathon in his 50s and took long expeditions in the north woods of Minnesota, where he had helped build the family log cabin in the 1940s.

Bent is survived by his wife of 55 years, Anne; a daughter, Libby Weberg; and four 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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