2/21/2007

F. Albert Cotton, RIP

All of you inorganic types out there, one of your greats, F. Albert Cotton, died yesterday at the age of 76.

I always thought he'd live out to see his getting a Nobel Prize, but I guess not. A sad day for chemistry indeed.

9 comments:

Naffer said...

Heard as soon as I showed up in lab this morning. Probably would never have won a Nobel prize for it, but he practically invented the study of metal-metal bonding as he practiced it.

Propter Doc said...

Sad, but what a legacy to leave behind. Thanks for letting us know.

Ashutosh said...

My dog-eared copy of 'Cotton and Wilkinson' weeps. Sad.

M said...

what a legacy he left indeed, he was nothing short of genius.

msg said...

So now that the author's dead, did the value of my text skyrocket?

evgeny said...

I heard he was a jerk to very many people, regularly insulted authors in the papers he reviewed and lost the ACS election for president for beeing an elitist.

"How DARE this no name from industry run against me!!" etc...

Any truth to this? (Not that this diminishes his work).

Anonymous said...

I was around Cotton at MIT in the early 1970's. He was an elitist jerk, but his grad students who I talked to were OK with him, but bored. They desribed working to get crystals then x-ray diffraction for paper number 73 in some sequence of boring stuff, where there was no glory.

There was a story that Cotton, who was into fox hunting and money, stumbled while getting off of the elevator . He thought that the long haired hippy 1972 type MIT undergrad on board had tripped him deliberatley . Did I spell that right ? Anyway, Cotton kicked the undergrad in the ass. The undergrad kicked Cotton in the ass in return, I guess showing no awe or respect for his elitist superiors. They then began to exchange more kicks. I don't know if the story is true or not, I heard it from one of the Cotton grad students who was so-so, but it is plausible from what I saw of him. Cotton left shortly after for the South, where students were obedient with authority. Herb House did the same thing about the same time.

I went to Rohm and Haas after MIT. Cotton did run for president of ACS against a guy who was a research director at R&H. Cotton did write a letter to someone, intended to be private, that was circulated saying approximately " How DARE this no name from industry rub against me..." I saw the letter osted on a bulletin board. While I didn't like Cotton as a person, I said then and say now that what he wrote was absolutely correct, and right on the money.

ACS leadership started to slip on those days from real good chemists being officials to today's sorry state of affairs. I also happen to know today's ACS president, a real political animal, and certainly no chemist, and I feel Cotton is still correct in what he wrote. It cost him the ACS presidency, and that was too bad for the ACS.

evgeny said...

Thanks anonymous, for that 'kicking Cotton' story. From all that I heard about the guy, it's very believable. That letter that he sent, that was supposed to be private, was apparently sent to a few dozen people. I guess one of them wasn't his friend.

Bethe Blasienz said...

Today was the memorial service at Texas A&M for Dr. Cotton. It was well attended and he was eulogized by many. I was never one of his students, but I am a good friend of his daughter. I never knew him as being famous, for me he was just Jenns' dad. The bow tie thing always struck me as being funny though. I never knew how famous he was until he passed away. Whether the stories about him are true or not, they cannot diminish his contributions to the world. While I may not quite understand exactly what his contributions were (I am no chemist) and their impact they will last as long as chemistry is practiced.
Bethe Blasienz
Bryan, Texas