For more than 60 years, including 41 at Texas A&M, Dr. Abraham Clearfield has led the way in areas ranging from solid-state inorganic chemistry to structural chemistry to crystallography. (Credit: Jim Lyle, TTI Communications.)


The Texas A&M University Department of Chemistry spent the better part of the previous academic year paying homage to a past that paved the way for its present, celebrating its 50th anniversary as a stand-alone department with a series of excellence events honoring five pioneering professors who helped define chemistry at Texas A&M and across the world.

On Thursday (Nov. 9), Texas A&M Chemistry will pay tribute to another of its longtime leaders, Dr. Abraham Clearfield, celebrating his trailblazing career in areas ranging from solid-state inorganic chemistry to structural chemistry to crystallography by hosting the Abraham Clearfield Symposium: A Life in Crystallography on the same day as his 90th birthday.

The daylong event, set to run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in The Forum located within Texas A&M's Rudder Theater Complex, will feature morning and afternoon sessions as well as a combination of rising stars and senior scientists, including Clearfield's colleagues, contemporaries and former students representing sectors ranging from academia to industry. The day will conclude with a 7 p.m. banquet at the Phillips Event Center at Briarcrest.

For more than 60 years, Clearfield has been a luminary in the field of materials science, achieving global renown for his research achievements as well as his teaching and mentoring contributions. He is considered one of the foremost experts in the field of layered phosphonates, a field he founded. In addition, his studies on synthesis and structure of layered ion exchangers have broadened many areas of chemistry related to coordination compounds, layered compounds phosphonic acids and phosphonates, crystallography, porous materials and, most recently, nuclear waste and radionuclides.

Clearfield, a distinguished professor of chemistry since 2007, originally joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1976 -- four years after his Temple University classmate Dr. F. Albert Cotton had come to Texas A&M from MIT. Both were recruited to by legendary department head Dr. Arthur E. Martell as part of his ongoing effort to expand and enhance Texas A&M chemistry programs and prestige.

"Abe Clearfield has played a major role in the Department of Chemistry for many years," said Dr. David H. Russell, professor and former head of Texas A&M Chemistry from 2006 to 2014. "His research and scholarship have contributed greatly to the research and teaching mission of Texas A&M University."

During his 41-year career at Texas A&M, Clearfield has served as chair of the Department of Chemistry's Inorganic Division, director of the former Industry-University Cooperative Chemistry Program and Texas A&M Materials Science and Engineering Program (the predecessor of today's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, which Clearfield had recommended in the 1980s) and as associate dean for research in the College of Science. All the while, he has worked extensively on layered compounds, intercalation chemistry and inorganic ion exchangers, including zeolites and metal phosphonate chemistry. His research continues to attract considerable funding, such as a $681,000 grant this past summer from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences to study reactive amorphous compounds and surfaces -- work with the potential to identify materials that are catalysts, proton conductors and molecules suitable for separations and drug delivery.

A past president of the American Crystallographic Association (ACA), Clearfield has been an editorial board member of numerous professional journals. In addition, he has published more than 600 papers in peer reviewed journals, edited four books and holds 17 patents. His many honors include Sigma Xi Distinguished Scientist, the American Chemical Society's Southwest Section Award in Research and Northeast Region Award for Achievements in the Chemical Sciences, an honorary Ph.D. (Honoris Causa) from the University of Oviedo, Spain, and a Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Research.

Clearfield received both his bachelor's (1948) and master's (1951) degrees in chemistry from Temple University as well as a Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 1954. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2013), he was honored by Temple in 2007 as a distinguished alumnus in the College of Science and Technology.

"It has been a highly interesting and rewarding life in chemistry and crystallography, but it has not yet ended," Clearfield told the ACA in his 2013 memoir, also titled A Life in Crystallography. "The zirconium phosphates have continued to interest scientists around the world, with more than 10,000 papers and more each year. We are currently using them as nanoparticles for anti-cancer drug delivery. The search for knowledge and wisdom is eternal."

Happy 90th birthday, indeed, Dr. Clearfield!

For more information on the Clearfield Symposium, contact Texas A&M Chemistry at (979) 845-9829 or via email at chemhead@chem.tamu.edu.

To learn more about Clearfield and his research, visit http://www.chem.tamu.edu/faculty/abraham-clearfield/.

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Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Simon W. North, (979) 845-4947 or north@chem.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • (Credit: Chandler Arden.)

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