At age 12, Ernest Eliel was given a chemistry set and discovered his life's passion. After he completed all the experiments in the set, he began creating his own. His dad, worried that his son might harm himself, bought him a few chemistry textbooks instead.
Persistence brought Eliel through his young adult years. Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938, he wanted to come to the United States, but the immigration quota was full. Instead, he moved to Scotland, then to Canada and then Cuba, often enduring rough treatment. He earned his Doctor of Science degree from the University of Havana in 1946.
With the war over, Eliel came to the United States and earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Illinois, where he joined the American Chemical Society in 1947. He became an esteemed professor at both the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A pioneer in modern stereochemistry and conformational analysis, Eliel has authored or co-authored a half dozen books and more than 300 scientific articles and reviews, and has lectured around the world.
Dr. Eliel has also provided valuable ACS leadership, serving terms as chair of the Board and President. "After I got to the U.S., many people helped me to succeed, and I felt I should do something for my profession in return," he says.
Eliel and his wife, Eva, established the Society's first charitable gift annuity in 1992, and provide ongoing support to the Society. Eliel commends programs such as Project SEED and ACS Scholars that develop future generations of chemists, calling the Society "instrumental" in furthering chemistry and ensuring continued opportunities in the field.
* Ernest Eliel died on September 18, 2008. We honor his contribution to the chemical enterprise.