April 2, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 13

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    Debus specialized in scientific revolution

    Allen Debus, the Morris Fishbein Professor Emeritus in History and an innovator in the study of the history of science and medicine, died Friday, March 6. He was 82.

    Debus, who was trained as a chemist, joined the faculty in 1961 and was appointed the first Morris Fishbein professorship in 1978, a position he held until his retirement in 1996.

    He was a specialist in Renaissance and early modern science and medicine, as well as the scientific revolution, early chemistry and medical chemistry.

    Debus authored and edited 21 books, including Man and Nature in the Renaissance, first published in 1978 and reprinted 16 times. It was translated into multiple languages, including its most recent Chinese translation in 2000.

    His collection of 13 papers published on chemistry and alchemy between 1961 and 1982 were published in 1987 as Chemistry, Alchemy and the New Philosophy.

    He graduated in 1947 from Northwestern University with a B.S. in chemistry, and studied history at Indiana University, where he received an A.M. in 1949. He took post-graduate courses in chemistry at Indiana and became a chemist at Abbott Laboratories before enrolling at Harvard University, where he studied the history of science and earned a Ph.D. in 1961.

    He received numerous grants for his research, including support from the American Philosophical Society and the National Science Foundation.

    Debus also was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an Overseas Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow and a Fulbright fellow.

    He also received two National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, one he completed at the Newberry Library, and another at the Folger Library.

    Once a visiting member of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, N.J., Debus also was a foreign corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences in Lisbon and a member of both the International Academy of the History of Science and the International Academy of the History of Medicine.

    Among Debus’ many awards are the Edward Kremers Award of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy; the Pfizer Prize; the Sarton Medal for lifetime achievement from the History of Science Society; and the Dexter Award for outstanding achievement in the History of Chemistry from the Division of the History of Chemistry of the American Chemical Society.

    Surviving Debus are wife Brunilda López Rodriguez, sons Allen Anthony George Debus and Karl Edward Debus-López, and seven grandchildren.

    Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, Lake Co. Regional Office, 100 Tri-State Int., #125, Lincolnshire, IL 60069.