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December 02, 2012
Nicholas J. Turro (1938-2012)
Nicholas J. Turro, Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University, passed away on November 24, 2012, at the age of 74. He was a world-renowned researcher in the field of organic photochemistry and an excellent teacher and advisor. "He was the greatest mentor I know", says Dr. Steffen Jockusch, who worked with Turro for more than 18 years, first as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and then as an Associate Research Scientist. "Over the many years I worked in his research group, I have seen how he made all newcomers welcome and shaped them to become good, professional scientists when they left, no matter what their level was when they arrived".
Dr. Jeffrey Lancaster, a young Associate at Turro's group agrees with this: "Professor Turro –'Boss' as he was affectionately known to his group– was a mentor in the truest sense", he says. "He also apparently had a love for words that started with P; anyone who ever learned from him about 'Professionalism', 'Paradigms' and the differences between what is 'Possible', 'Plausible', and 'Probable' knows the clarity with which he could see, communicate, and educate others about scientific problems and their solutions. He will truly be missed by an extensive scientific family that he and his wife, Sandy, nurtured together for over 55 years".
Turro made important contributions to the understanding of the reaction pathways of highly energetic molecules. He studied the structure and dynamics of photochemically generated species, such as carbenes, singlet oxygen, radicals, radical pairs, and biradicals. His group also developed a new area of research called "supramolecular photochemistry" and made outstanding contributions to the field of spin chemistry. Turro's "enthusiasm and unquenchable energy for science was truly inspiring", Jockush says. "I was always amazed by how quickly he adopted new ideas, new research projects and new technology".
Nicholas Turro earned his B.A. degree in chemistry (summa cum laude) at Wesleyan University (USA) in 1960, and his Ph.D. degree in organic photochemistry at Caltech in 1963. After spending a year as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University, he joined Columbia's chemistry faculty as an instructor. He became Professor in 1969. The US scientist co-authored more than 900 research papers and published several influential books, including Molecular Photochemistry (1965) and Modern Molecular Photochemistry (1978). Turro received numerous prizes throughout his career and was recently selected as the recipient of the inaugural George S. Hammond Award from the Inter-American Photochemical Society. More information on the group's website
Photo: Nicholas J. Turro (credit: Columbia University).