UC Berkeley professor emeritus of chemistry Andrew Streitwieser dies at 94

Photo of Andrew Streitwieser
College of Chemistry/Courtesy
According to Robert Bergman, others will remember Andrew Streitwieser as a personable, nice individual, and as a respected professor admired by his graduate and postdoctoral students alike.

The campus College of Chemistry Dean Douglas Clark announced the passing of professor emeritus Andrew Streitwieser in a letter to the campus community Feb. 24.

Streitwieser was a “major figure” in the field of physical and organic chemistry and was one of the earliest contributors to applying physical techniques to organic chemistry, according to Robert Bergman, the Gerald E. K. Branch distinguished professor emeritus of chemistry. A notable area of study of his involved the inspection of organic compound intermediates called carbocations, or “short-lived” compounds that would form as a result of organic reactions, according to Bergman.

“He was working at a time when most organic chemists were focused almost exclusively on organic compounds,” Bergman said. “There was little attention given by organic chemists to compounds with metals in them. Andy bridged that gap in a very interesting way.”

According to the letter, Streitwieser was a “pioneer” in the study of molecular orbital theory.

In collaboration with colleagues, Streitwieser authored “Molecular Orbital Theory for Organic Chemists, which Bergman regarded as one of the “most important and groundbreaking” textbooks in organic chemistry.

“It was a higher-level textbook, but still did very well in the market,” Bergman said. “It brought mechanistic chemistry into the undergraduate level and had a major impact on how organic chemistry was taught.”

Streitwieser was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1927, and studied at Columbia College and Columbia University to earn his Ph.D. in 1952, according to Clark’s letter. The letter noted that after working as a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Streitwieser moved to campus as a professor of chemistry in 1952 and retired from the College of Chemistry in 1993, yet still remained active in the department post-departure.

Streitwieser received numerous accolades throughout his career, including the Alexander von Humboldt Medal and the ACS Cope Scholar Award, as well as membership in organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, according to Clark’s letter.

Besides Streitwieser’s major accomplishments, Bergman said others will remember him as a personable, nice individual, and that he was a respected professor, one that was admired by his graduate and postdoctoral students alike.

“His graduate and postdoctoral fellows never had a bad word to say about their interaction with him. He helped them learn and helped them get jobs after they graduated,” Bergman said. “They have great respect for him, even long after leaving Berkeley.”

Contact Ashley Tsai at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @ashleyttsai.