Hutchison, 92, was pioneer in magnetic resonance spectroscopy
Professor in Chemistry Clyde A. Hutchison Jr., a pioneer in the science of magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a technique that led to useful medical and technological insights into the magnetic properties of matter, died Monday, Aug. 29 in the Montgomery Place Retirement Community in Chicago. He was 92.
Hutchison adopted electron magnetic resonance spectroscopy shortly after its invention, said John Weil, professor emeritus of chemistry and physics at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. “He started out as a pioneer in that field at the beginning and had a genius for discerning important projects,” Weil said. “There were no textbooks then. There were no manufacturers of instruments. I was in on that generation. We had to learn it for ourselves because there was nothing yet in the libraries.”
Nuclear and electronic magnetic resonance spectroscopy eventually gave birth to magnetic resonance imaging, which is widely used in medicine and in studying the physics of solids, said Weil, who received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1955 at Chicago under Hutchison’s tutelage. Hutchison, working at first with military surplus equipment, used the technique to study fundamental scientific questions about the magnetic properties of single atoms and molecules.
Born May 5, 1913, in Alliance, Ohio, Hutchison received his B.S. in 1933 from Cedarville College and his Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1937. He then went to Columbia University as a National Research Council Fellow and worked with Nobel laureate Harold Urey. In 1939, he left Columbia to become an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Buffalo.
During the war years, Hutchison participated in the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, while at Columbia University and the University of Virginia. In 1946, he was appointed to the second executive committee of the Atomic Scientists of Chicago, a group that organized to campaign for the peaceful use of nuclear power under international control.
Hutchison became an Assistant Professor in Chemistry at the University in 1945 and served as Chairman of the Chemistry Department from 1959 to 1963. He retired as the Carl William Eisendrath Distinguished Service Professor in Chemistry in 1983.
He was editor of the Journal of Chemical Physics from 1953 to 1959 and a consultant to Argonne and Los Alamos national laboratories for many years. He served as a visiting lecturer or professor at many universities around the world, including the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel in 1970.
He also was the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow to Oxford University from 1955 to 1956 and from 1972 to 1973, as well as the George Eastman Professor at Oxford’s Clarendon Laboratory from 1981 to 1982.
Hutchison received many honors, including an honorary doctoral degree from Cedarville College and the Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry from the American Chemical Society.
He also was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences and was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He shares both distinctions with his son, Clyde Hutchison III, a professor emeritus of microbiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a distinguished investigator of the J. Craig Venter Institute.
Hutchison married Sarah Jane West in 1937. She died in 1997. A sister, two sons, a daughter and four grandchildren survive him. Arrangements are pending for a memorial service in November.