Jan. 6, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 7

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    Chemist Stout dies at age 87

    John Willard Stout Jr., Professor Emeritus in Chemistry, Manhattan Project scientist and long-time editor of the Journal of Chemical Physics, died Thursday, Dec. 16, at his home in Chicago. He was 87.

    “He was best known nationally and internationally as the editor of the Journal of Chemical Physics,” said Donald Levy, the University’s Albert Michelson Distinguished Service Professor in Chemistry. Stout served as editor of the journal from 1959 to 1983.

    “This was, under his direction, the most prestigious journal in the field,” said Levy, the journal’s current editor.

    Among Stout’s specialties were magnetism, thermodynamics and cryogenics––the physics of low temperatures. His distinguished work in these areas earned him fellowship in the American Physical Society.

    “Much of his work was carried out at cryogenic temperatures at a time when that wasn’t so easy to do,” Levy said. Stout conducted experiments nearly reaching absolute zero, which is minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit. “The University was known as one of the places that really tooled up to do it right, and I think that was largely because of Stout,” Levy said.

    When Stout came to the University as an Associate Professor in Chemistry, he already was well-known for his work in thermodynamics, said Stuart Rice, the Frank Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in Chemistry.

    “At Chicago, most of his work dealt with the thermodynamics of magnetic systems,” Rice said. “He was one of these classic, experimental chemical physicists or physical chemists who was exquisitely careful, who understood what he was doing and who produced work of the highest quality, but not necessarily in fashionable fields. It’s the kind of work that other people want, but it takes a certain personality to do.”

    Stout was born March 13, 1912, in Seattle, Wash. He received his B.S. degree in 1933 and his Ph.D. in 1937, both from the University of California, Berkeley.

    He worked at the University of California as a chemistry instructor from 1937 to 1938 and as a Lalor Fellow from 1938 to 1939. Stout also served as an instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1939 to 1941 and as an investigator for the National Defense Research Committee in California from 1941 to 1944. He was a group leader on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, N.M., from 1944 to 1946.

    Stout joined the Chicago faculty as an Associate Professor in 1946 and was promoted to Professor in 1954. He became Professor Emeritus in 1977.

    Stout also served on the board of directors of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference from 1956 to 1959 and the Northwest Hyde Park Neighborhood Redevelopment Corp. from 1957 to 1962.

    Stout’s wife, Florence Louisa Parsons Stout, died in 1996. He is survived by his son, John Edward Stout, a meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who resides in Silver Spring, Md.; a daughter-in-law; and four grandchildren.