Christiana Briddell

Remembering Dr. Al Matlack

Blog Post created by Christiana Briddell on Dec 16, 2013

A passionate advocate for green chemistry, author, and professor at the University of Delaware, Dr. Al Matlack, passed away in early November. According to his family, he died suddenly, apparently without premonition, and only days after finishing yet another book related to green chemistry.



Dr. Matlack asking a question during the 17th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference
in Washington DC, June 2012. Dr. Matlack was a 65-year ACS member.


Dr. Matlack worked as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Delaware where he started teaching industrial chemistry in 1995. Early on he developed a course in green chemistry and soon thereafter wrote a comprehensive book, An Introduction to Green Chemistry, which was first published in 2001. Dr. Matlack was one of the pioneering authors in the new subject, yet the book continues to inspire new students. Just this past June, a student at the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, mentioned how elated he was to receive Dr. Matlack's book as a prize for winning a poster competition—after which he promptly got it autographed. The book contains not only traditional subject matter on green chemistry, but constantly seeks to apply it to topics touching all of our lives—nuclear power, electronic waste, and smart growth for example.


Prior to teaching, Dr. Matlack worked at Hercules for many years (now Ashland) synthesizing polymers. Over the course of his career, he accumulated over 130 U.S. and foreign patents for his innovations. He studied chemistry at the University of Virginia in the early 1940s, and got his doctorate in synthetic organic chemistry at the University of Minnesota after serving time in the Army as a chemist at the tail end of World War II.


Dr. Matlack's passion for the environment spread to other areas of his life. He was the President of the Society of Natural History of Delaware where his efforts to educate people on environmental issues and natural resources recently won him the Conservation Award from the Delaware Audubon Society.


Dr. Matlack was known by many, many people in the green chemistry community. As ACS Green Chemistry Institute® director David Constable remembers:


"I can't honestly remember a Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference or ACS National Meeting Session on Green Chemistry where Al was not present.  He was always present, and he was always asking questions that no one else asked. He approached things from a very practical, real-world perspective and challenged everyone in his quiet, persistent and respectful manner. He had an almost encyclopedic recall of reactions, of environmental issues and he was as up to date as anyone I knew. I'm not sure there's anyone quite like Al, and losing him is definitely a big loss to the green chemistry community. He was a quiet, unassuming person, and I will miss him."




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