Memorial service on June 7 for Yale chemist Donald M. Crothers

There will be a memorial service on Saturday, June 7 for Donald M. Crothers, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and professor emeritus in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, who died on March 16 at age 77.

Donald Crothers

The service will be held at 1:30 p.m. in Battell Chapel, corner of College and Elm streets. All are welcome.

Crothers was born in Fatehgarh, India on Jan. 28, 1937, son of the late Morris King Crothers and Florence Kittredge Crothers. He graduated summa cum laude from Yale in 1958 with a B.S. in chemistry and earned a B.A. from the University of Cambridge two years later. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California-San Diego in 1963.

After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max-Planck-Institut in Göttingen, Germany, he returned to Yale as a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry in 1964. He was named to an associate professorship in 1968, to a full professorship in 1971, to the Alfred E. Kemp Professorship in Chemistry in 1985, and to a Sterling Professorship in 1987.

He served two terms as chair of the Department of Chemistry (1975-1981 and 1994-2000) and was a founding member of the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. He also served on numerous university committees, including as chair of the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences Advisory Committee on the Education of Women at Yale (1984).

Crothers’ research focused on understanding the structure and dynamics of nucleic acids, and in particular, the interactions of nucleic acids of small molecules and proteins. He published more than 200 scientific papers, was issued 10 patents, and served on numerous advisory boards.

He won the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award (1981), was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1986), and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1987). He was awarded the Emily M. Gray Award of the Biophysical Society (2008) for “significant contributions to education through creating rigorous, groundbreaking texts enriching generations of biophysicists,” an award which he shared with David S. Eisenberg of the University of California-Los Angeles. The two co-authored the 1979 text “Physical Chemistry with Applications to the Life Sciences,” which has become a standard textbook in the field.

One of Crother’s former students, Stephen Levene ’85 Ph.D. of the University of Texas-Dallas, said of his mentor: ““He was a model in terms of intellectual rigor, in terms of dedication and in terms of service to the scientific and academic community. I try every day to live up to the example that he set.”

Speaking to his classmates at their 50th reunion, Crothers — who retired from Yale in 2003 — described himself as “primarily a scientist, with venture capital and start-up companies as a side-line.” He was the co-founder — with Yale colleagues Frank Ruddle and Vincent Marchesi and businessman George Polley — of the biotech startup Molecular Diagnosis, funded by the Bayer Corporation, on the site of what is now West Campus; they later joined with Bayer to establish Molecular Therapeutics on the same site. Crothers went on to serve as a partner and scientific consultant for numerous biotechnology firms until shortly before his death.

Crothers is survived by his wife of 54 years, Leena Kareoja-Crothers; daughters Nina Crothers (Fred Nangle) and Kristina Crothers (Mark Skirgaudas); grandchildren Sofia, Freya, Evan, and Elena; and sisters Shirley Crothers Quinn and Susan Crothers, as well as many relatives in the Pacific Northwest and in Finland.

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