John Corbett, longtime ISU chemistry professor, passes away

John D. Corbett, in 2007

John D. Corbett, in 2007

Distinguished Professor John D. Corbett, a member of the Iowa State University chemistry faculty and the Ames Laboratory staff for more than 60 years and member of the National Academy of Sciences, died early Labor Day morning.

The funeral is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, at St. John’s by the Campus, 2338 Lincoln Way in Ames. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. John’s Anglican Episcopal Church or the Youth & Shelter Services, Inc., both in Ames.

John was a Distinguished Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences, a professor of chemistry and former department chair for the Department of Chemistry. His long association with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory included several years as Chemistry Division chief and program director for Materials Chemistry.

“John Corbett was one of the cornerstones of the chemistry department for decades,” chair and professor of chemistry William Jenks said. “He served as a program director, a chair, a distinguished professor, and a man who ensured that we kept up the highest standards. Just as importantly, though, John will be missed by all of us as a friend.”

According to Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, John has published more than 445 articles in peer-reviewed journals and has presented more than 345 invited seminars around the world. His research specialized in inorganic solid-state chemistry, emphasizing strong metal-metal bonding.

John created, through his retirement funds, the John D. Corbett Professorship in Chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Professor of chemistry Mei Hong became the first holder of the professorship in 2007, and Distinguished Professor Patricia Thiel is current holder.

Hong said, “I have admired John’s scientific presence and collegial spirit in our department, and I am grateful for his support to my research, both through a generous professorship in his name and through his thoughtful advice during my career at Iowa State University.”

Born in 1926, John received his B.S. (1948) and Ph.D. (1952) from the University of Washington. He joined the Iowa State faculty in 1952.

He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His honors include the American Chemical Society awards in Inorganic Chemistry and in Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry, a Senior Scientist Award from the A. v. Humboldt Foundation, two Department of Energy Awards for Outstanding Scientific Accomplishments and Sustained Research in Materials Chemistry, and election to the National Academy of Sciences.

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