Professor honored by Russian academy for chemistry, anti-cancer work

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Professor honored by Russian academy for chemistry, anti-cancer work

The S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Natural Science and Technology of the Russian Academy of Sciences has honored a California State University, Fresno emeritus professor for “notable pioneering work” on the history of Russian inorganic chemistry.

Dr. George B. Kauffman, who taught chemistry for 36 years at Fresno State and now performs adjunct service for the dean of the College of Science and Mathematics here, was awarded a laudatory decree in Moscow recently. The decree is the equivalent of an honorary degree but because the institute is a research organization rather than a university, it is not empowered to award honorary degrees.

Several of Kauffman’s students were also cited, including Dwaine O. Cowan for his work with Kauffman on the anti-cancer drug cisplatin.

The decree celebrates Kauffman’s “contributions to chemistry and the history of chemistry, especially to his notable pioneering work on the history of Russian inorganic chemistry and his investigations of the role of Russian inorganic chemists.”

The decree was signed by historian of chemistry, Dr. Viktor A. Kritsman, and philosopher of chemistry, Alexander A. Pechenkin, on behalf of all the institute’s historians and philosophers of chemistry.

The decree also recognizes Kauffman’s previous Russian honors — three bronze medals from the N. S. Kurnakov Institute for General and Inorganic Chemistry of the USSR Academy of Sciences: the Chugaev (1976), Kurnakov (1990), and Chernyaev (1991) medals.

The decree also cites him as “the most influential chemistry teacher-scholar in the California State University system.”

“His work has had an enormous impact on teachers and students alike,” the decree states. “At California State University, Fresno, he has directed the research of more than 100 undergraduate students, many of whom have gone on to become stars in academic or industrial chemistry.”

The decree also cites Kauffman and Cowan for their preparation of cisplatin, the most widely used anti-cancer drug, “which has been cited countless times and selected by the Institute for Scientific Information as a ‘Citation Classic’.

In addition to Cowan, the decree specifically mentions Fresno State students Dwaine O. Cowan, Lloyd T. Takahashi, James Tsai, Richard A. Houghten, Paul F. Vartanian, James M. Felser, Robin D. Myers, Wayne Craig and Mohammad Karbassi.

Cowan was the Outstanding Alumnus in 1995 for the Fresno State School of Natural Science (now College of Science and Mathematics) and Houghten was awarded the 1997 Fresno State Alumni of Excellence Award.

Kauffman’s interest in Russian chemists and chemistry resulted from his work and that of his Fresno State students on the chemical compounds of the platinum metals, one of Russia’s most important natural resources.

Kauffman, a Guggenheim Fellow and contributing editor to eight journals, has been at Fresno State since 1956 and retired in 1992. He is the author of 17 books and more than 1,650 technical papers, reviews, and encyclopedia articles on chemistry, chemical education and the history of science and technology.

Earlier this year he received the American Chemical Society Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution, his second national award from the world’s largest scientific organization, the only Fresno State faculty member to date to achieve this honor.