Deaths: John Morrison

John MorrisonJohn Morrison, 76, professor emeritus of chemistry, died in mid-April.

Morrison was an inorganic chemist whose work focused on three types of compounds: the chemistry of the electron deficient polyboron halides, the preparation of trifluoromethyl containing main group and transition metal derivatives, and an examination of the reactivity of alkylated high valent main group species.

This research included fundamental work in synthesis, theoretical studies of bonding, and the use of a variety of physical methods to characterize the structure and interactions within and between these molecules.

“As befits his status as an inorganic chemist, he was someone who was skilled in all areas of chemistry,” said Donald Wink, professor of chemistry. “All of this focused on answering questions about the basic properties of chemistry, creating new forms of matter and new ways to understand matter.”

Morrison, who published more than 50 papers and was awarded over $750,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation, continues to influence research today.

One of his first papers at UIC, published by Inorganic Chemistry in 1978, was recently cited within a February 2018 paper on polyfunctional boron complexes from a research group led by UCLA professor Alexander Spokoyny, a leader in looking for application of such complexes.

“John’s contributions are unique to that area and very much ahead of the time when he did the work. So we’ll see how far we can push this chemistry further…his work has definitely provided us with a phenomenal inspiration and insights,” Spokoyny wrote to Wink upon learning of Morrison’s passing.

Morrison was a post-doctoral fellow at MIT for four years prior to being hired at UIC as assistant professor in 1976. During a critical period of growth for the department, he was promoted to associate professor in 1982 and full professor in 1992. He served as associate head and director of undergraduate studies in chemistry from 2001 until his retirement in August 2006.

He was considered a dedicated mentor to students in and out of the classroom, with an exceptional ability to give strong, informed and quiet support to colleagues, recalled Wink.

“He was a person I could turn to when I needed to discuss things, in confidence, about the host of issues that come to the department in the course of a semester,” said Wink, a former chemistry department head. “Even when he had opinions, he was always ready to empathically consider what was best for the department, the other persons involved, and finally, myself.”

Morrison earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley, a master’s degree from San Diego State University, and a doctoral degree from the University of Maryland.