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February 26, 2007
Volume 85, Number 9
p. 11


F. Albert Cotton Dies

Inorganic chemistry pioneer was first to show existence of metal-metal quadruple bond

Susan Morrissey

Frank Albert (Al) Cotton, world-renowned inorganic chemist, died on Feb. 20 at age 76 from complications stemming from a head injury he suffered from a fall in October. He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Diane, and two daughters.

Bill Crawford/CNC Photographers

Cotton's research spanned more than 50 years and included seminal work in the areas of metal-metal bonding, organometallic chemistry, and computational chemistry. Among the highlights of his career are studies of the first metal-metal quadruple bonds, the first mechanistic studies of fluxional organometallic compounds, and work leading to the resurrection of crystal field theory.

Author of more than 1,600 publications, Cotton was the W. T. Doherty-Welch Foundation Chair in the chemistry department at Texas A&M University. Prior to joining Texas A&M in 1972, Cotton was a faculty member at MIT. His work earned him many honors, including the ACS Priestley Medal, the Wolf Prize, and the National Medal of Science. He was an emeritus ACS member, as well as a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

"Our department's loss of a colleague and friend is shared by the entire academic and industrial chemical community," says David H. Russell, chemistry department chairman at Texas A&M. "He was a great role model for scientists of all ages, but it is important to realize that few will be able to impact the chemical sciences in a similar way."

Cotton's legacy includes not only five text and reference books but also a large scientific family. "Al Cotton was a giant figure in inorganic chemistry," says Stephen J. Lippard, chemistry professor at MIT and a former Cotton student. "He cared deeply about his extended scientific family and went to great lengths to nurture their careers. His death is a huge loss for the chemical community."

"Those of us who knew Al had the privilege to know one of the most brilliant, focused, imaginative, and driven individuals in chemistry and beyond," says Bruce E. Bursten, ACS president-elect and a former Cotton postdoc. "We will miss his presence, but his legacy in chemistry will last forever."

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society