Edward E. Smissman, Ph.D.


Edward E. Smissman was born on July 29, 1925, in East St. Louis, Illinois. Upon his graduation from East St. Louis High School in 1941, he enlisted in the U. S. Coast Guard. After 3½ years of service he began his academic training, earning his B.Sc. in 1948 from the University of Illinois, and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 1952 with Eugene van Tamelen.

In early 1952, Ed and his wife, Clare, moved from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois, where he assumed his first academic position as Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy. In 1955, Ed accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin, where he began to build a graduate program in medicinal chemistry. Ed’s wide range of scientific interests were evident in the variety of research activities he carried out. He not only continued his doctoral research on the isolation, structural studies, and synthesis of natural products, but also began working in the area of organic reaction mechanisms and aspects of stereochemistry. While at Wisconsin, he began his investigations of host-plant-resistance factors which led to the development of his program in insect chemistry. He also initiated his studies of the mechanism and stereochemistry of the Prins reaction and the quasi-Favorskii rearrangement. In addition to these long-range interests, a variety of other problems, including the stereospecific syntheses of shikimic and quinic acids, were studied. Such diversity of research activity created a stimulating and challenging atmosphere in Ed’s laboratories.

In 1960, Clare and Ed moved to The University of Kansas, where he became Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry. He continued his work in natural products and synthetic chemistry, but he became intensely interested in conformational aspects of autonomic receptor sites, and a series of papers began to appear describing work in this area. In 1964, Ed was named a University Distinguished Professor.

Ed was an innovator of interdisciplinary research at KU. He had the unique ability to be able to bring together individuals in different disciplines and create an environment of cooperation and creativity. His success in this capacity was demonstrated by the Health Sciences Advancement Award, which the National Institutes of Health granted to KU in 1969. This grant, largely the result of Ed’s efforts, resulted in a significant increase in the number of faculty positions in the chemical & biological science at KU and in the construction of McCollum Laboratories, a building used as a center of interdisciplinary research at KU. At the time of his death, Ed was spearheading a second proposal that led to the establishment of the Center for Biomedical Research, the forerunner of the Higuchi Biosciences Center, and to the construction of the Smissman Research Laboratory building.

Ed’s energy was limitless, his enthusiasm boundless, and his devotion to his students, colleagues, and science was infinite. He was author or coauthor of over one hundred research publications covering a wide variety of topics in medicinal chemistry. He participated directly in the training of over seventy Ph.D. students, and twenty postdoctoral fellows, and influenced the lives of many others. It is impossible to overestimate the extent of this influence. He had colleagues and friends all over the world whose lives were enriched by knowing him.

Ed felt a strong responsibility to be active in his professional associations. He served first as vice-chair and chair of the long-range planning committee of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry of the American Chemical Society and became chair of the Division in 1959. He was General Chair of the Sixth National Medicinal Chemistry Symposium, Counselor in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry for many years, and served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Annual Reports in Medicinal Chemistry, and the American Chemical Society Advances in Chemistry series. He also took an active role in the Medicinal Chemistry Section of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences. In 1972–74, he served as chair of the IUPAC Committee on the International Education of Medicinal Chemists. Because of his extraordinary talents as a researcher and teacher, Ed was in demand as a lecturer throughout the world at conferences and universities and as a consultant at industrial laboratories. In addition, he spent many years as a member of National Institutes of Health study sections and panels.

Ed died unexpectedly on Sunday, July 14, 1974. He was not quite forty-nine years old. His qualities as a teacher, a scientist and a human being inspired generations of students and affected all who knew him. His influence will not soon be forgotten. The atmosphere of cooperation and goodwill which Ed fostered at KU will remain as his greatest memorial.

Clarine Feir was born in 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri. She earned a bachelor’s degree at The Ohio State University. She and Ed were married in 1951 while Ed was in graduate school. They were second parents to all the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the department. They entertained often in their home (shared with Hagen, their handsome German Shepherd), and Clare accompanied Ed on most of his travels. She obtained a law degree at KU in 1966 and practiced law in Lawrence and Baldwin City where she also was on the faculty at Baker University. After Ed’s death she earned an MBA degree at KU and moved to Winter Park, Florida where she remarried (William Robinson), practiced law and taught business law part-time at Rollins College. Following her death in 2004, the Smissman Memorial Fund was renamed as the Edward E. and Clarine F. Smissman Memorial Fund.

It was Clare’s wish that, as a lasting tribute to a great man, the Edward E. Smissman Lecture Series in Medicinal Chemistry be established. By sponsoring lecturers of outstanding merit and achievement in chemistry and biology, it is hoped that the influence and tradition of both Ed and Clare Smissman will be preserved.