Mallinckrodt Professor of Organic Chemistry Emeritus William von Eggers Doering died January 3rd, 2011 in Waltham, MA. He was 93. He was a highly regarded research scientist, teacher and mentor who led the Council for a Livable World, a prototypical political action committee. 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.
William Doering was born June 22, 1917 in Fort Worth, TX. He moved 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.
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. He held tenured professorships at Columbia University and Yale University before returning to Harvard in 1967. He became the Mallinckrodt Professor of Organic Chemistry in 1968, taking emeritus status in 1986 but continuing to sponsor 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, 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 educating legislators and contributing to House and 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 02138.