Thoughts On Obits’ New Look | Chemical & Engineering News
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Volume 93 Issue 42 | p. 2 | Letters
Issue Date: October 26, 2015

Thoughts On Obits’ New Look

Department: Letters

We are very unhappy with the newly instituted practice of C&EN for obituaries of ACS members. We learned about this from the response to our submission of a celebration of the many contributions of James Crivello to chemistry and ACS (see page 33).

The long-standing publication of memorials written by colleagues of the late member is to be replaced by populating a form asking for dried-out statistics: essentially name, rank, and serial number as important aspects (, as well as just a few (<100!) words about some fondest recollections of the submitter. Something will then be composed in C&EN’s office. Print publication seems not to be assured.

The previous policy, in existence long before our decades-old ACS membership, was to humanize the memorial with personal notes and an emphasis on the contributions of the decedent to our profession. It is easy to speculate on the forces driving the change. The loss of human warmth that will necessarily ensue is not a trade worth pursuing.

Edwin A. Chandross
Murray Hill, N.J.

Leonard V. Interrante
Troy, N.Y.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society
Auntie Markovnikov (October 26, 2015 9:28 AM)
I agree. The new format is horrible.
Joseph A. Stanko (November 2, 2015 10:14 PM)
Thank you fellow members L. Interrante and E. Chandross for voicing for many of us our disappointment with the abrupt change of format of the Obituaries Section of C&EN! I too had the honor of contributing to the obituaries of several of my colleagues in the past and felt as you did, that the tracing of that persons career, appointments, achievements, etc. was desirable content for our membership to be informed of. The current format which appears to emphasize anecdoctal comments about the deceased, though providing some insight about the personal character of the deceased, seem secondary to the type of obituary content that has been provided in our Society's magazine for so many years in the past.
Robert Buntrock (November 4, 2015 4:33 PM)
I haven't had experience with the new format in submission of obituaries but it sounds like a large step backwards. I have had some experience writing memoirs including one for Paul Schleyer for his days at Princeton, neglected in other obituaries. Some authors are writing and publishing memoirs for living chemists, not just the deceased. I heartily endorse that process and hope to contribute some myself.

-- R. E. Buntrock
Orono, ME
Robert Buntrock (November 4, 2015 4:50 PM)
As a chemist turned information specialist I heartily endorse Mendenhall's recommendation for chemical literacy. In addition to spending time in the library even more information is currently available online re safety, reactions, hazards, etc. In addition, many chemistry departments are requiring safety training before any student set foot in a lab. All should do so.

When I took organic chemistry beginning 56 years ago, the isolation of any diazonium salt was prohibited. Any preps were to be further reacted in solution. Later, a preparation of the diazonium salt of anthranilic acid (Org Syn V, 54-59, before the safety requirements spelled out in the Org Syn article (keep moist!) led to an explosion with injuries in a lab just down the hall from me. If one must isolate a diazoium salt, regardless of the anion, take extensive precautions (including working behind a blast shield) and handle with care.
Robert Buntrock (November 4, 2015 5:02 PM)
I just realized that there were obituaries in this issue of C&EN in the new format. The personal memoirs are nice but the abbreviated professional CV is very inadequate. Just as bio for candidates for ACS offices are too brief by only including most recent positions (or last 210 years) it does not do justice to the deceased career. For example, I at least knew of Raymond Dodson at the University of Minnesota when we were both there but the obit does not show that he worked at G. D. Searle before his academic career. Such information is relevant to surviving coworkers as well as providing better insights into one's career. Although I'm not expecting my demise anytime soon, my CV would show working for four companies including my own consultancy, currently active.
Philip E. Rakita (November 9, 2015 8:17 AM)
Dear C&EN Editor--you still have a significant readership of older ACS members who value the traditional format for obituaries, not the "Cliff Notes" version you have recently switched to. What will it take to convince you to recognize a bad judgment and return to the previous format?

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