William Lee Jolly, professor emeritus of chemistry at UC Berkeley, dies at 86

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William Lee Jolly, professor emeritus of chemistry at UC Berkeley, died of heart failure Jan. 10 at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Richmond. He was 86.

Born Dec. 27, 1927, Jolly was one of a handful of professors teaching inorganic chemistry when he first joined UC Berkeley’s faculty in 1955. He is credited for joining the field when it was lesser known and for helping the field build its reputation. Over his lifetime, he discovered new information about chemical bonding and researched topics including thermodynamics, volatile hydrides and liquid ammonia solutions.

At UC Berkeley, he kicked off his career teaching freshman-level chemistry and inorganic chemistry classes, and into the 1960s, developed various academic courses, seminars and research programs that still influence curricula today.

His research was also recognized at other institutions across the nation, with more than 300 of his articles published in top scientific journals. He authored and edited a myriad of books, such as Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry, The Synthesis and Characterization of Inorganic Compounds and From Retorts to Lasers: The Story of Chemistry at Berkeley.

He received his bachelor of science degree in 1948 and his master’s degree the year after, both in chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1952, he received his doctorate in chemistry at UC Berkeley with the acclaimed Wendell Latimer. Prior to joining UC Berkeley faculty, Jolly worked at the then-newly formed Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1953 to 1955.

Professor emeritus of chemistry Andrew Streitwieser recalled in an email how Jolly would blend his knowledge of chemistry with his outside interests, especially photography. Jolly was the former president of the Berkeley Camera Club, and annual judging events were often held at his house.

When Jolly retired in 1991, he transitioned to working exclusively on photographic chemistry. He invented new print techniques such as chromoskedasic solarization and silver mirror printing. This photography was published in his work titled Solarization Demystified: Historical, Artistic and Technical Aspects of the Sabatier Effect, written with the help of his second wife, Jane Jolly.

Kenneth Raymond, professor in the department of chemistry at UC Berkeley, recalled how he and Jolly would be companions on backpacking trips that sometimes lasted nine days and reached 90 miles.

“My personal connections with him were strong because he loved backpacking,” Raymond said. “I really learned about the Sierra Nevada because of Bill Jolly.”

Jolly is survived by his second wife Jane Jolly; his sister Jacqueline Getzin; and his two sons, daughter, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

There was no memorial service held, as per Jolly’s request, but a reception will be held at The Faculty Club on April 3 at 3 p.m. Photographs taken by Jolly will also be on display during the month of April at The Faculty Club.

Contact Jean Lee at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that William Lee Jolly was born on December 12, 1927. In fact, he was born on December 27, 1927.

A previous of this article also stated that photographs of Jolly will be on display during the month of April at The Faculty Club. In fact, photographs taken by Jolly will be on display.