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William von Eggers Doering

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DOERING, William von Eggers Mallinckrodt Professor of Organic Chemistry Emeritus William von Eggers Doering died January 3rd, 2011 in Waltham, MA. He was 93. When he and Robert Burns Woodward synthesized quinine in 1944, the New York Times called their work "one of the greatest scientific achievements in a century." The cause of his death was respiratory failure. Over eight decades, Professor Doering published research on organic structures and fundamental chemical reaction mechanisms. His wide-ranging body of work provided a foundation for the understanding and control of chemical reactions and for computational chemistry. William Doering was born June 22, 1917 in Fort Worth, TX. He moved to Cambridge in 1926 when his father Carl accepted a position as a vital statistician at the Harvard School of Public Health. He attended Shady Hill School and Belmont Hill School before entering Harvard in 1934. He received a B.S. in 1937 and a Ph. D. in 1943. Doering joined the faculty of Columbia University in 1943, becoming Associate Professor in 1948. He directed the Hickrill Chemical Research Foundation in Katonah, NY from 1947 to 1969. In 1952, he accepted a full professorship at Yale University, becoming the Whitehead Professor of Organic Chemistry in 1956 and serving as Director of the Division of Sciences from 1962 to 1965. He moved to Harvard in 1967 and became the Mallinckrodt Professor of Organic Chemistry 1968. Doering took emeritus status in 1986 but continued to mentor postgraduates and publish research until 2008, when he was 91. William Doering received many chemical honors, including: the City of Philadelphia's John Scott Medal (1945); the American Chemical Society (ACS) Awards in Pure Chemistry (1953) and Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry (1966); the James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry (1989) from the Northeastern Section of the ACS; the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker's A. W. Hofmann Medal (1962); and the Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry (1990). He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, as were five of his former students. From 1980 to 1986, Professor Doering directed the Chemistry Graduate Program (CGP), placing over 250 Chinese students in North American Ph. D. programs, thereby encouraging thousands more to study in North America. The CGP "changed the landscape of chemistry," according to former American Chemical Society President Bruce E. Bursten. In 1962, William Doering became Chairman of the Board of the Council for a Livable World (CLW), which supports nuclear non-proliferation and arms control by lobbying and contributing to US Senate campaigns. He was CLW President from 1973 to 1978. William Doering is survived by two sons, Christian and Peter, and a daughter, Margaretta Doering Volk. A memorial service will be held February 5, 2011 at 11 AM in the Story Chapel of Mount Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mount Auburn Street Cambridge, MA 02138. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to The Shady Hill School,178 Coolidge Hill, Cambridge MA 0213

Published in The Boston Globe on Jan. 11, 2011
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