Richard N. Armstrong | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 93 Issue 29 | p. 36 | Obituaries
Issue Date: July 20, 2015

Richard N. Armstrong

Vanderbilt professor and Biochemistry editor-in-chief made his mark in enzymology and structural biology
Department: ACS News
Keywords: obits
Credit: Vanderbilt University
Photo of Richard N. Armstrong.
Credit: Vanderbilt University

Richard N. Armstrong, 66, a professor of biochemistry and chemistry at Vanderbilt University and editor-in-chief of Biochemistry, an American Chemical Society journal, died on June 18 after a brief illness.

Armstrong worked to elucidate the mechanisms of enzymes in the body that help detoxify foreign compounds from diet or the environment. One highlight was his work on glutathione S-transferases, a family of enzymes involved in the metabolism of electrophilic compounds such as epoxides and alkyl halides. He solved the first crystal structure of a glutathione transferase bound to glutathione, a biomolecule that acts as an antioxidant. He also elucidated mechanisms of hard-to-study membrane proteins.

“Richard spent his whole career at the vanguard of mechanistic enzymology, taking a rigorous bioorganic and biophysical approach to studying protein function,” says Charles R. Sanders, one of Armstrong’s colleagues at Vanderbilt. “He was fearless, adapting new methods and techniques to tackle the problem at hand.”

Armstrong received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Western Illinois University in 1970 and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Marquette University in 1975 under the direction of Norman E. Hoffman. He did postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago, where he worked with Emil T. Kaiser. After a two-year stint at the National Institutes of Health, Armstrong joined the chemistry faculty at the University of Maryland. In 1995, he moved to Vanderbilt.

In addition to his research, Armstrong was active in ACS, which he joined in 1973. He had been editor-in-chief of Biochemistry since 2004. Before that, he was an associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. He also served as a councilor and chair of the ACS Division of Biological Chemistry. In 2014, he received an Arthur C. Cope Senior Scholar Award.

“Richard leaves a lasting legacy through his almost 12 years of editorial leadership of Biochemistry and his extensive research career,” says Brian D. Crawford, president of the ACS Publications Division. “He was passionate about expanding the global reach of Biochemistry and ACS Publications for the benefit of the chemical community.”

Armstrong is survived by his wife, Mary Frances Clark; daughter, Kathryn Armstrong; and son, Andrew.


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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