Robert Cooper Taylor

Robert Cooper Taylor, professor emeritus of chemistry, passed away Sept. 27 after a short illness. In recent years Taylor served as departmental historian and maintained the departmental alumni records. Taylor came into his office daily until this summer, when his wife, Evelyn, suffered complications from hip replacement surgery and passed away. At that time, Taylor himself was diagnosed with lymphoma.

Taylor received a B.A. degree from Kalamazoo College in 1941 and, six years later, a Ph.D from Brown University. In 1942–45, he was employed as a research chemist on the Manhattan project. He joined the chemistry department at U-M in 1949 where he served until his retirement in 1987. From 1967–86 he was associate chairman working with three successive chairs. He also was director of the Chemistry Division, Merit Information Center at the University 1972–89.

His research on the structure and force fields in boron compounds was seminal in character. He was one of the earliest to understand how the computer was completely revolutionizing structural chemistry and vibrational spectroscopy. Taylor’s career closely paralleled the growth of the computer in science and he was an expert source for several generations of chemistry students and faculty. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was appointed assistant editor of the ACS journal Inorganic Chemistry when it was launched in the 1960s.

During Taylor’s years as associate chair of the department he continued to teach the mandatory physical chemistry lab course. His office assigned all graduate student instructors and graders as well as processed fellowship and research assistant appointments. He came to personally know every student in the department over this period, a claim unique in the department. Given his combined expertise in computers and interest in people, he set up a computerized alumni database and was devoted to maintaining it during retirement. He became a departmental history expert with considerable insight back to the early 1900s. Each year, he assisted in writing the departmental newsletter. He leaves a brother, two sons and three grandchildren.


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