Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search results

Davenport, Derek A., 1927-2017



  • Existence: 1927 - April 4, 2017

Biographical Information

Derek A. Davenport was Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Purdue University. He was born in 1927 in Leicester, England. Davenport earned his Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Chemistry in 1947 and his PhD in Chemistry in 1950, both from the University College London. In 1950, he came to the United States for what was intended to be a short stay at Reed College, Oregon. However, after a subsequent two years at The Ohio State University, Davenport joined the faculty at Purdue University in 1953 and began a 41 year tenure there.

Retiring in 1994, he touched the lives, and occasionally altered the career paths, of hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students. He served as a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Chemical Education; as chairman of the American Chemical Society's Division of Chemical Education, and Division of the History of Chemistry; and was the recipient of several national awards in Chemical Education. He traveled extensively throughout the world, lectured in every state of the Union, and spent two sabbaticals overseas helping to establish the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India.

In 1970 he won the Standard Oil Undergraduate Teaching Award, in 1973 he received the Visiting Scientist Award of the Western Connecticut Section of the American Chemical Society, and in 1974 the Manufacturing Chemists Association Award in Chemical Education. In 1962-63 he spent a year in India helping in the establishment of the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur, now a flourishing institution. A visit to Nigeria followed in 1964. From January 1970 to June 1971 he was again at the Indian Institute of Technology. In March 1976 Professor Davenport was a Visiting Scholar at the University Center in Virginia, and later that year he was chosen Lecturer-of-the-Year by the Indiana Academy of Science.

Beginning in 1966, Davenport served as a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Chemical Education. In 1979 he served as Chairman of the Division of Chemical Education of the American Chemical Society and also as Chairman of the Purdue University Section of the ACS.

Professor Davenport radiated his enthusiasm for the history of chemistry. He possessed great personal warmth and was an exciting lecturer. He enjoyed a national reputation for his ability to bring to life through his dynamic lectures those scientists who were involved in the development of late eighteenth-century chemistry. Lavoisier, Priestley, Cooper, Thompson, Jefferson, Franklin, and Rush not only greatly influenced the emerging new science of chemistry, but each in his own way added something to the history and stature of the new American Republic.

He had three children: Susan, Martin, and Alan. Davenport died on April 4, 2017, in West Lafayette, Indiana. He was survived by his children and his long-time companion Tamar Susskind.


Wang, Linda. "Derek A. Davenport." Chemical and Engineering News. Vol. 95, Iss. 22. (May 29, 2017): 44. />

"Derek A. Davenport Obituary." Journal and Courier, Lafayette, Indiana. />

(1980) Percy Lavon Julian Family Papers, Series III: Folder 4, Julian Memorial Lecture, Derek A. Davenport, April 10, 1980, Retrieved from: Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Oral History Program

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Derek A. Davenport papers

 Collection — Box: Communal Collections 19, Placement: 13
Identifier: MSF 104
Scope and Contents The papers consist of a professional publication written by Derek Davenport.
Dates: 2001