May 28, 2008
Douglas Skoog, analytical chemist and textbook author, dies at 89
By Louis Bergeron
Douglas Skoog, professor emeritus of chemistry, died April 27, one week short of his 90th birthday. For the last few years, he and his wife, Judith, had been living at Webster House, a retirement home in Palo Alto.
Skoog began his Stanford career in 1947 when he joined the Chemistry Department faculty. He became a full professor in 1962 and executive head of the department, a position he held until his retirement in 1976.
"He was a wonderful colleague," said James Collman, the George A. and Hilda M. Daubert Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus. "He was a dedicated teacher, but he retired quite early to concentrate on his books."
Skoog wrote three textbooks on analytical chemistry, all bestsellers and classics in the field. In 1999, he was honored by the American Chemical Society with the Fisher Award for his contributions to education in analytical chemistry. In announcing the award, the society estimated that his books had reached more than 1 million students around the world. Various editions of the three books have been translated into foreign languages, including German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Croatian, Turkish, Chinese and Korean.
Previously, he had received the 1993 Excellence in Teaching Award from the Division of Analytical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society.
Skoog was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1998.
During his tenure at Stanford, Skoog served two terms on the Faculty Senate and was on the board of directors of the Stanford Faculty Club when the new clubhouse was being planned. He later served as the board's president.
Skoog was born in Willmar, Minn., on May 4, 1918. The following year, his family moved to Oregon, where he spent his childhood. They later returned to Minnesota, where he graduated from Minneapolis Washburn High School in 1936. He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Oregon State College (now University) in 1940. He earned a PhD in analytical chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1943.
While at the University of Illinois, he met Judith Bone, a recent University of Illinois graduate who was working as the secretary to the business manager of the university. They married in 1942.
The Skoogs moved to Berkeley, Calif., in 1943, where he worked for Standard Oil Company of California (now Chevron) until 1947, when he came to Stanford.
When not immersed in analytical chemistry, Skoog spent a good portion of his time outdoors, backpacking in the Sierra Nevada and the Santa Lucia Mountains south of Carmel. He also downhill and cross-country skied every winter and was an avid and skilled fly fisherman. For many years he was a member of the San Francisco Fly Casting Club.
"He taught me to fly fish," Collman said. "I went fishing with him and camping with him many times."
In 1962, Skoog realized a lifelong ambition and obtained a private pilot's license. During the next decade, he accumulated nearly 600 hours of cross-country flying, visiting places in the Rockies, the Southwest, the Midwest and the Pacific Coast states.
Skoog was also a member of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco. "He organized a poker party up there every May for about a dozen years, inviting myself and a half-dozen of my colleagues," Collman recalled. "He was very, very social and very pleasant. He's a person who will be missed."
Skoog is survived by his wife of 65 years, Judith; his daughter-in-law Tammy Skoog of Palo Alto; and grandson Jon Douglas of Oakland. He was preceded in death by two sons, James Arvid and Jon Douglas. He requested that there be no memorial service but that donations in his memory be made to the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital or to a charity of the donors' choice.