Stanford Report Online



Stanford Report, March 14, 2001
Harry Mosher, professor emeritus of chemistry, dies at 85

BY MARK SHWARTZ

Harry Stone Mosher, professor emeritus of chemistry, died at his campus home on March 2 after a lengthy illness. He was 85. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, March 17, at 2 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto.

Mosher was born in 1915 in Salem, Ore., where he attended public schools and later Willamette University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1937. He received a master's degree from Oregon State University in 1939 and then returned to Willamette as an assistant professor in 1939. He received a doctorate in organic chemistry from Pennsylvania State University in 1942 and remained there during World War II as an assistant professor supervising research on synthetic anti-malarial drugs for the National Research Council.

In 1944, he married fellow Penn State chemistry student Carol Walker. They moved to California three years later after Harry accepted an appointment with Stanford's Department of Chemistry. Carol joined the staff of Stanford Research Institute that year, later becoming senior organic chemist.

During his career at Stanford, Mosher taught organic chemistry and conducted research in a wide range of areas, including natural products chemistry and stereochemistry. He co-authored more than 140 research papers and a reference book titled Asymmetric Organic Reactions, published in 1971.

"He was a beloved teacher and a great scientist but very modest," recalled James P. Collman, professor of chemistry. "Harry invented the 'Mosher Reagent,' which is widely used by organic chemists to measure the degree of left- or right-handedness in organic molecules."

Mosher also elucidated the chemical structure of tetrodotoxin -­ an extremely toxic molecule found in wild newts inhabiting Stanford's Lake Lagunita. He later showed that this same toxic compound is found in puffer fish, a Japanese delicacy.

Mosher received an honorary doctoral degree from Willamette University. He also served as chair of the California section of the American Chemical Society and on the ACS National Council.

In 1980, the Santa Clara Valley section of ACS established the Harry and Carol Mosher Award to advance the field of chemistry. The Moshers were the first recipients of the award, given "in recognition of the inspiration of their example."

Mosher retired from Stanford in 1981 but continued to lunch with his friends at the Rathskeller in the Stanford Faculty Club until the last two weeks of his life.

"Harry loved the out of doors," said friend and neighbor Douglas A. Skoog, professor emeritus of chemistry. "He was an all-around athlete, having played varsity basketball at Willamette, and loved to backpack, ski and play tennis."

He is survived by his wife; their three children, Stephen Mosher of Clovis, Calif., Leslie Jean Robbins of San Jose and Janet Lee Oliver of Rancho Santa Margarita; and five grandchildren.

The family has requested, in lieu of flowers, that friends forward a donation in memory of Harry Mosher to the First United Methodist Church 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301, or to the Midpeninsula Pathways Foundation, 65 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025.