Chemistry Nobel Prize winner’s departure from Yale deserves more clarification

To the Editor:

While reading the Oct. 18 Yale Bulletin, I read an excellent article detailing the work of Nobel Laureate John B. Fenn. He received this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry for his discoveries in the world of protein analysis. He came to Yale in 1967 and conducted research until 1987. From 1987 to 1994 he stayed at Yale as professor emeritus. It then states that he left Yale and went to Virginia Commonwealth University. This seemed an odd “career” change when he must have been in his late 70′s (based on his receiving a B.A. in 1937 from Berea College in Kentucky). No details about this move were provided.

While listening to National Public Radio (NPR) this past week, there was a feature on the work of John B. Fenn culminating with his Nobel laureate status. The NPR piece stated that when a research professor at Yale reaches 70 years of age, he achieves professor emeritus status.According to the report, a professor emeritus may maintain a university office, but he may no longer manage his own research or laboratory space. Fenn subsequently left Yale for the position of professor at Virginia Commonwealth College in 1994 where he was surely given adequate laboratory resources. Perhaps he wanted to be closer to family, or maybe he prefers Richmond to New Haven. It does, however, make you wonder about the circumstances surrounding the departure of a Nobel laureate from our fine institution.



Frank J. Tamarkin

October 18, 2002

The writer is a post-doctoral research fellow at the School of Medicine.

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