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Ernest Wenkert

by Susan J. Ainsworth
May 11, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 19

A photograph of Ernest Wenkert.

Ernest Wenkert, 88, an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, died on June 20, 2014.

Born in Vienna, Wenkert received a B.S. degree in 1945 and an M.S. in 1947, both in chemistry, from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1951 from Harvard University under Robert Burns Woodward.

He then served as a professor of chemistry at Iowa State University until 1961, when he joined Indiana University and became its Herman T. Briscoe Professor of Chemistry. From 1974 until 1980, he was the E. D. Butcher Professor of Chemistry at Rice University, serving as chair of its chemistry department. He then moved to the chemistry faculty of UC San Diego, where he also served as chair. He retired in 1994.

During a 1960s sabbatical, he chaired the organic chemistry department at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.

Wenkert published hundreds of papers on his research, which focused on novel syntheses of natural products, particularly those of indole alkaloids and terpenes; novel organic synthetic methods; and the utilization of 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the characterization of natural products.

He received the Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products from ACS in 1971 and the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 10th Symposium on the Latest Trends in Organic Synthesis in 2002. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1946.

Wenkert is survived by his wife, Ann; daughters, Naomi and Deborah; sons, David and Daniel; 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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