17 Jun 2019

In memoriam

Submitted by Joanne Stewart, Hope College

With great sadness, I share the news of the passing of one of the most creative, inspiring, and vibrant inorganic chemists I ever knew: Richard A. Andersen. Dick was my graduate advisor at Berkeley in the 1980’s. He died on Sunday, June 16, 2019. I miss him already.

Dick is most well known for his innovative chemistry. He and his students could make interesting new bonds that no one thought possible. However, I hope that he will also be remembered as an outstanding teacher. I have vivid memories of walking into his graduate organometallics class to a chalkboard covered in MO diagrams...complete with citations from the recent literature. (And as an aside, please allow me to implore you that “organometallic is an adjective, not a noun.”)

Recently, a group of IONiCers had the opportunity to celebrate Dick on the occasion of his 75th birthday. We contributed an article and accompanying learning object (LO) to a special issue of Dalton Transactions. The article was titled “Teaching from the primary inorganic literature: lessons from Richard Andersen.” It describes Dick’s use of the chemistry literature in his teaching and how it inspired IONiC members to develop over a hundred Literature Discussion LOs on the VIPER site. These LOs enable undergraduate students to learn fundamental inorganic chemistry concepts using current and historical examples from the literature. The Dalton paper provides a review of the effectiveness of using the literature in teaching and describes how to develop a VIPEr Literature Discussion learning object.

To go with the paper, we created a Literature Discussion from one of Dick’s recent chemistry papers in Dalton Transactions. It’s called “Ytterbium-catalyzed alkene isomerization: A tribute to the f-block chemistry of Richard Andersen.” The learning goals include basic concepts like electron counting and oxidation states, as well as some more advanced questions about the nature of evidence in mechanistic arguments. For those of you teaching inorganic chemistry next year, especially those who knew Dick, I encourage you to include it in your class and share a few of your favorite Dick Andersen anecdotes with your students.

I welcome you to share your tributes and stories in the comments section below.