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Remembering Donald DeFord, Northwestern Chemistry Professor

DeFord was a pioneer in the use of operational amplifiers in chemistry

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March 18, 2014 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Donald D. DeFord, a professor of chemistry at Northwestern University from 1948 to 1987, passed away peacefully on March 1, 2014, in Peoria, Arizona. He was 95.

A prodigious scholar who published more than 40 scholarly papers in chemical journals and served as a member of the advisory board of the journal “Analytical Chemistry”, DeFord was one of the pioneers in the use of operational amplifiers in chemistry. In 1958, he reported on the design of an operational amplifier-based potentiostat for electrochemistry research. It was the forerunner of modern electrochemical instrumentation.

DeFord was a highly innovative administrator with a passion for outstanding management. Chair of the chemistry department for nine years, he computerized the department’s business office, initiated a weekly department bulletin and established an analytical services laboratory. He served briefly as science advisor to Northwestern’s Provost, Assistant Vice President for Research and Director of the Office for Research and Sponsored Programs. 

DeFord earned his bachelor’s degree in 1940 and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in 1947 and 1948 from the University of Kansas. While in the U.S. army, he served in Guadalcanal and the Philippines during World War II and for 20 years in the reserves. He rose to the rank of colonel.

He was born in 1918 in Alton, Kansas. He and his wife, Leora Adams, moved from Kansas to Glenview, Ill., where they attended the Methodist Church. A dedicated gardener and a handyman who could fix or make almost anything for family and friends, DeFord moved to Sun City West with his wife in 2002. There he served on the town posse and was treasurer of the Grandview Terrace Charitable Foundation until 2009. 

Professor DeFord is survived by daughter Ruth Kotecha, son David DeFord and grandchildren Steven DeFord, Shelley Stanphill, and Vicram and Vijay Kotecha.