University Mourns the Passing of Nicholas Turro

November 30, 2012

Nicholas (Nick) Turro, chair of Chemistry and co-chair of Chemical Engineering departments, passed away Nov. 24. He was 74.

“Nick Turro was a great and dedicated teacher, a warm and cherished colleague, and an imaginative scholar,” said University President Lee C. Bollinger. “I miss him deeply, and I'm sure everyone in his department and field feels the loss even more.”

The William P. Schweitzer Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Chemical Engineering, Turro was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts. He authored several influential books and was selected as one of the most highly cited chemists for the past two decades, publishing more than 900 papers on his research. His book, "Molecular Photochemistry," was considered a bible in the field.

Turro received his Ph.D. from Caltech where he studied under George S. Hammond, a pioneer in the field of photochemistry. Following a postdoctoral year at Harvard with organic chemist P. D. Bartlett, Turro joined the faculty at Columbia. His groundbreaking work in chemistry was recognized with the 2011 Arthur C. Cope Award in Organic Chemistry, given annually "to recognize outstanding achievement in the field of organic chemistry." In 2000, he received the Willard Gibbs Award, which is awarded to "eminent chemists who...have brought to the world developments that enable everyone to live more comfortably and to understand this world better."

Adding to his many awards and achievements, Turro will be honored posthumously in 2013 with the inaugural George S. Hammond Award by the Inter-American Photochemical Society, for the “breadth and depth of Professor Turro's many crucial contributions to the photochemical sciences and his singular impact on worldwide dissemination of photochemical knowledge through his many collaborations and his pioneering textbooks.”

“Nick was a brilliant scientist, highly regarded teacher, and a wonderful person,” said Ann E. McDermott, the Esther Breslow Professor of Biological Chemistry and Chemistry Department chair. “The loss to the University community is incomprehensibly great.”
To share your memories of Professor Turro e-mail jk20@columbia.edu. You can see the posted comments on the Chemistry Department’s website.

—by Beth Kwon