Paul Flory, Nobel Prize Winner, Dead at 75
BIG SUR, Calif. (AP) _ Paul Flory, a Nobel laureate in chemistry who used his prize in a passionate battle for human rights, has died of a heart attack, his family said Tuesday. He was 75.
Flory, a pioneer in polymer chemistry and professor emeritus at Stanford University, was found dead Monday in his car in Big Sur, said his wife, Emily.
Mrs. Flory said the scientist had left their Portola Valley home to spend the weekend in Big Sur writing. He was to have delivered a paper to the American Chemical Society meeting in Chicago on Tuesday, she said.
Flory was a ″towering giant in the field of science and a human being with deep compassion, strong commitments and a willingness to work in support of human rights for colleagues all around the world,″ said Stanford physics professor Sidney Drell, who worked with Flory on human rights issues.
Flory revolutionized his field by discovering a way to compare polymers, long chains of atoms or small molecules linked together in repeating sequences. His work earned him the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1974.
He used the prize to gain publicity for social problems, particularly human rights.
″We are all scientists who have been working to realize the unity of science around the world,″ he once said.
A native of Sterling, Ill., Flory was educated at Manchester College in Indiana and at Ohio State University, where he received his doctorate in 1934.
He became interested in the study of polymers while working at the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
Flory discovered polymers could be compared once they were dissolved in a suitable solvent. He also found that chemists could compute a ″universal constant″ by measuring the viscosity, light dispersion, and sedimentation rate of polymers.
Flory came to Stanford in 1961, after working at the University of Cincinnati, the Standard Oil Development Co., the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., and Cornell University. During World War II he worked on creating synthetic rubber for the war effort.
A minister’s son, Flory became a spokesman for activist groups dedicated to trying to protect Soviet scientists.
He once offered himself as hostage to the Soviet government in return for Western medical treatment for Yelena Bonner, wife of dissident Nobel physicist Andrei Sakharov. The offer was refused.
Flory won many major awards in science and chemistry, including the Cresson Medal of the Franklin Institute.
Besides his wife, he is survived by two daughters and a son.