Chemistry International
Vol. 22, No. 6, November 2000

2000, Vol. 22
No. 6 (November)
..News from ICSU
..News and Notices
..New Projects
..Awards and Prizes
..New Books
..Provisional Recommendations
..Reports from Commissions
..In Memorium
..Conference Announcements
..Conference Calendar

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Chemistry International
Vol. 22, No. 6
November 2000

 

Kurt Leopold Loening (1924-2000)


Dr. Kurt L. Loening

Kurt L. Loening, the world's foremost expert and leader in chemical nomenclature, passed away at the age of 76 on 12 July 2000 in Columbus, Ohio, USA.

Dr. Loening was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1924. He also spent a few years growing up in French-speaking countries. When he came to the United States, he already had an early appreciation of languages and communications skills. He graduated from high school in New York City in 1942 and received his B.Sc. degree in chemistry from The Ohio State University (OSU) in 1944. After a tour of duty with the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service, he returned to OSU to pursue research in physical chemistry. He received his Ph.D. in 1951.

Dr. Loening joined Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) in the same year. His 39-year career at CAS linked him with many of the persons who were pillars of the organization. In his early days, he worked under the tutelage of CAS Editor E. J. Crane, former Editor and consultant Austin M. Patterson, and Associate Editor Leonard T. Capell. His primary mentor was W. Russell Stemen. In 1964, Dr. Loening succeeded Capell as Director of Nomenclature at CAS, a post he held until his retirement in 1990. His early contribution to the development and application of chemical nomenclature to the Chemical Abstracts (CA) Volume and Collective Indexes was a thorough documentation of CAS naming and indexing policies, of which the present Appendix IV of the CA Index Guide is a direct descendant.

Outside CAS, he served for 25 years as chairman of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Committee on Nomenclature. He also participated in the work of all of the IUPAC Nomenclature Commissions. His most enduring contributions were the reconstitution of the Chemistry International, IUPAC Commission on Macromolecular Nomenclature (IV.1), which he chaired for 11 years (1968-1977), and the founding of the IUPAC Interdivisional Committee on Nomenclature and Symbols (IDCNS), which he guided for another 11 years (1976-1987). The former produced pioneering documents dealing with nomenclature of polymers, and the latter assured conformity of all the IUPAC publications with the approved standards by establishing a publication procedure that allowed public comment before official approval of recommendations by IUPAC. He also served as a Member of the IUPAC Commission on the Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry (III.1) from 1963- 1983, a Member of the IUBMB-IUPAC Joint Commission on Biochemical Nomenclature (JCBN) from 1977-1985, and a Member of the IUPAC Commission on Microchemical Techniques and Trace Analysis (V.2) Subcommittee on Surface Analysis from 1987-1991.

Dr. Loening lectured and published widely, with work ranging from articles in journals to chapters in books and encyclopedias. His nomenclature and terminology topics covered all fields of chemistry, including history. In national and international circles, he was known for his patience and ability to reconcile differences of opinion among chemists of many nations and to forge consensus on sensitive nomenclature issues.

He did not hesitate to tackle controversial subjects such as recommending an 18-column Periodic Table of Elements, which is now an accepted standard worldwide, or criticizing some of the more recent decisions of the IUPAC Commissions.

When asked what he considered the highlight of his career, he answered that it was the opportunity to help chemists solve their nomenclature problems. He had often compared chemical nomenclature with linguistics, and was just as concerned as linguists are about the precision and specificity of expressions to avoid potential misunderstandings.

In 1987, Dr. Loening received the prestigious Patterson-Crane Award of the ACS Columbus and Dayton Local Sections for work in the documentation of chemistry in the development of chemical nomenclature and terminology. He was also a recipient in 1990 of the ACS Executive Director's Award for his many years of distinguished service to the ACS. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

In the decade following his retirement, he did not rest on his laurels. He founded, with Helmi Sonneveld of the Netherlands, a terminology consulting firm, Topterm, and was the Managing Director of its North American Division. He was a cofounder and a coeditor of the journal Terminology. For that achievement, he received in 1997 the A. A. Reformatskii Prize of the Scientific Board of the Russian Terminological Society (RossTerm).

 

 

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