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Charles Pedersen, Nobel Prize-Winner, Dies

October 26, 1989

SALEM, N.J. (AP) _ Charles J. Pedersen, co-winner of the 1987 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his discovery of molecules that enable scientists to create complex organic compounds, died Thursday following a lengthy illness. He was 85.

Pedersen, who lived alone, died around 9:30 a.m. in his Salem home, said Justin Carisio, a spokesman for Pedersen’s former employer, E.I. Du Pont Nemours and Co. He had suffered from a form of blood cancer and Parkinson’s disease, Carisio said.

His body was discovered by his housekeeper, Carisio said.

Pedersen was awarded the Nobel prize in October 1987, sharing the $360,000 award with California researcher Donald J. Cram and French scientist Jean- Marie Lehn for their work in the syntheses of crown ether molecules.

Pedersen was cited for his pioneering work nearly 25 years previously in discovering crown ethers, molecules that make it possible to synthesize numerous complex organic compounds that imitate the behavior of natural proteins.

Scientists have said crown ethers could lead to the development of radioactivity antidotes, new pharmaceutical delivery systems and extractors of gold and uranium from the sea.

″He was a brilliant chemist and an extraordinary gentleman,″ Du Pont Chairman Edgar S. Woolard Jr. said in a statment. ″After winning the prize, he inspired everyone else with his dignity, his humility and his personal charm.″

In an interview after receiving the prize, Pedersen said, ″I was very excited. That’s all I can remember about how I felt.″

Pedersen was one of the few Nobel winners in the sciences who had never earned a doctorate or a professorship. His highest academic degree was a masters from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A self-described ″hands-on″ industrial chemist, Pedersen spent his 42- year career at Du Pont in New Jersey and Delaware, where his research yielded 65 patents, mostly in petrochemicals.

Early in his career, he contributed to the development of Neoprene, the first commercially successful synthetic rubber.

″He was a real example of a complete professional, a well-rounded man who had a wide variety of interests,″ said Raymond Fitz, president of the University of Dayton. Pedersen was a 1926 graduate of the University of Dayton.

″Not only was he a great scientist, but he also loved poetry and the outdoors,″ Fitz said. ″We’re deeply saddened by his death.″

Pedersen was born in Korea of a Norwegian father and a Japanese mother. He moved to the United States when he was 17.

He began working in the Du Pont laboratories in Deepwater in 1927 and transferred to the company’s laboratory in Wilmington, Del., where he remained until his retirement in 1969.

Pedersen is survived by two daughters, Shirley Evans of Salem, N.J., and Barbara Cleaveland of Alexandria, Va.; four grandchildren; and three great grandchildren.

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