It is with great sadness that the family of world renowned Organic Chemist, Dr. Donald J. Peterson, reports his passing Friday, June 21, at the age of 83. After a lingering illness, he passed away peacefully at home with his wife at his side.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Alyce H. Peterson, son Brent L. Peterson of Allentown, PA, daughter Lori Jo Peterson of Los Alamos, New Mexico/Murray, Ky, and daughter Sheryl L. Peterson Harvey, and Brent Clifford Harvey of Marietta, Ga. He is also survived by 9 grandchildren: Megan A. Peterson Heft, Aaron Heft of Washington DC, Lauren E. Peterson of Los Angeles, CA., Timothy A. Peterson of Newark, Delaware, Mitchell D. Wolstein, Amanda Marshall Wolstein of Roswell, GA, Austin D. Wolstein of Fort Worth, Texas, Tanner D. Wolstein of Murray, KY, Lily A. Harvey, Sophie-Katherine Harvey and Lynden Merrit Harvey all of Marietta, GA. He has two surviving brothers, Lee Peterson of Ladysmith, WI, and Robert Peterson of Ripon, WI.
Dr. Peterson was born in Ladysmith, Wisconsin on November 19, 1935. He attended both primary and high schools in Bruce, Wisconsin where he along with being an honor student, was a star athlete, and lettered in baseball, football and basketball. After graduating in 1953, he attended Wisconsin State College at Superior and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science. In the summer of 1957, after studying for graduate school qualifiers, and marrying his childhood sweetheart, Alyce Blasczyk, he was accepted into the chemistry program at Iowa State University. He studied under the distinguished professor, Dr. Henry Gilman. He was awarded the Dupont Teaching Fellowship, taught Chemistry 101, and was a lab instructor at Iowa State University. ISU was known then as the best chemistry graduate school in the United States. In 1962, he received his PhD in Organic Chemistry with minors in Biochemistry and Medical Physiology.
After receiving his degree, he was hired by the Proctor & Gamble Co where he joined the Corporate Research Division, Miami Valley Labs in Ross Ohio. Dr. Peterson worked at various levels of research for P&G and was eventually named Director of Corporate Research from 1979-1994. He was responsible for about 150 researchers, including 55 PhD’s & Md’s.
On April 18, 1972 he was awarded a United States Patent for his development of the Peterson Carbonyl Olefination Reaction, more commonly known as “the Peterson Reaction.” This important, widely used, and written about chemical reaction was named after him by his peers within 2 years of its creation. Among the tens of thousands of organic reactions that are known, there are roughly 240 well known enough to be named after their discoverer. Dr. Peterson has 33 patents, but his most important work is the one bearing his name.
Awards & Achievements:
Dr. Peterson was fluent in Scientific German and Scientific French.
He coined the term, “Olefination” which is now accepted and used in technical journals.
Dr. Peterson’s works are contained in most advanced Organic Chemistry textbooks.
He co-authored an entire chapter for advanced textbook of Organo-phosphorus Chemistry.
He wrote an extensive article for the Journal of Organic Metallic Chemistry.
Dupont Teaching Fellowship 1957
PhD Organic Chemistry with minors in Biochemistry and Medical Physiology Iowa State University 1960
Member of Phi Kappa Phi Honorary Scholastic Society
Member Emeritus American Chemical Society
Created the Peterson Reaction (Olefination) D. J. Peterson J. Org. Chem. 33, 780 (1968)
Cincinnati Chemist of the Year 1989
Prestigious Charles Hurd guest lecturer at Northwestern University
Board of Directors Research Institute of Pharmacological Science
University of Mississippi, Oxford MS
Chemistry Advisory Board University of California, San Diego, CA
The member representing Industry to serve on the Super Computer Advisory Board Ohio State University
Guest lecturer at Northern Illinois University
Guest lecturer at MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Guest lecturer at LSU, Louisiana State University
Wrote about 18 publications covering his research findings
Listed in Wikipedia both under the Peterson Olefination Reaction and Wikipedia D.J. Peterson talk
Facebook Public Figure page, “D.J.Peterson,PhD/the Peterson Olefination reaction”.
Dr. Peterson... “Don” was not only brilliant but humble... and generous... and funny... and handsome... and KIND. His wife says his only faults were that he didn’t like to sing or dance. He is already greatly missed and forever loved by family and all who had the privilege of knowing him.
A Memorial Visitation in memory of Dr. Peterson will be held on Thursday, June 27, 2019 from 5-6:30 p.m., with a service following from 6:30-7:30 at Ridgeway Funeral Home, in Paris, TN. Interment will follow in the family plot at the Protestant Cemetery in Bruce, Wisconsin on Saturday, June 29, 2019.
Those who wish may make memorial donations in memory of Dr. Peterson to St. Jude Children’s Hospital of Memphis, TN. This was one of his favorite charities.