Bodie Douglas

Bodie Douglas, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, died on March 24, 2018.

Douglas joined the Pitt faculty in 1952, teaching and conducting research until his retirement in 1989. He stayed active in the department well into the 2000s, advising graduate students in inorganic chemistry.

During his academic career, he published numerous articles and several books, including a senior-level chemistry book in wide use across 49 years, “Concepts and Models of Inorganic Chemistry,” on which he was lead author. He taught as a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Leeds (England), and as a visiting professor at Osaka University (Japan) and in the former Yugoslavia.

Carol Fortney, chemistry lecturer, was a Ph.D. student in the chemistry department in 2003 when her thesis advisor of the past three years, faculty member Rex Shepherd, died suddenly. To prevent Fortney from having to start over on the research toward her degree, she recalled, Douglas came out of retirement to become her adviser. As she learned only later, he was returning a favor from 20 years earlier, when Shepherd had temporarily advised Douglas’ students after Douglas suffered a heart attack.

Fortney met with Douglas through the last months of his life, she said, to aid him in finishing a paper on crystal structures. Then in hospice care, Douglas was working with the software CrystalMaker and, just recently, donated the software to the University for the use of future students.

“He instilled his passion for chemistry in other people,” Fortney said. “I promised him that I would get his paper finished.”

Born Dec. 31, 1924, in New Orleans, Douglas entered Tulane University at age 15, graduating in absentia at age 18 because he was already attending the Navy’s officer training school. He served 1943-46 aboard battleships in the Pacific Theater in World War II. During his military stint, he married Gladys Backstrom, enjoying a 72-year marriage that ended with her death just two months before his own.

Douglas earned his master's degree at Tulane University and a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at the University of Illinois.  

He is survived by his children, Judy, Bruce, Sharon and Jan.