Otto T. Benfey

Top Professional of the Year 2018: Hall of Fame Retiree

A German born chemist, Mr. Benfey was sent to England as a child to escape Nazi Germany. It was there that he began his formal education in chemistry. After graduating from University College London, Mr. Benfey emigrated to the United States. It was here that he began to build his reputation as an educator and science historian. Over the course of his career, Mr. Benfey would hold positions at Earlham College, Haverford College, and Guilford College. In 1988, Mr. Benfey would retire from Guilford College as the Dana Professor of Chemistry and History of Science, Emeritus. In addition to his work as an educator, Mr. Benfey made other significant contributions to the community. He served as editor for the high school magazine Chemistry for fifteen years. During his tenure as editor, readership and circulation increased to over 30,000 readers; an increase of five fold. Mr. Benfey authored several works, most notably Introduction to Organic Reaction Mechanisms, Robert Burns Woodward, Architect and Artist in the World of Molecules, and From Vital Force to Structural Formulas.

He also translated several works, including The History of the International Chemical Industry by Fred Aftalion and The Japanese and Western Science by Masao Watanabe. After his retirement from Guilford College, Mr. Benfey took a position as adjunct professor of History and Sociology of Science for the University of Pennsylvania. At this time he also served as editor for the Bulletin for the History of Chemistry as well as on the advisory board for The Scientist, The Chemical Sciences in Society, and Foundations of Chemistry. Mr. Benfey continued to author, translate, and edit well into his retirement, notably authoring books about Carl Schorlemmer, August Wilhelm von Hofmann, and Robert Burns Woodward. In recognition of his lifelong dedication to the field, Mr. Benfey was honored on his 90th birthday by the American Chemical Society at their national meeting in 2016.