Distinguished scientist and educator as well as an avid gardener, Carl Robert Noller conducted research covering broad topics in plant-based natural products. His work included the first total synthesis of oleic and elaidic acids, and extracts from local flora with pharmacologically interesting properties.
Thousands of students at Stanford and across the world have been introduced to organic chemistry through Professor Noller’s textbook Chemistry of Organic Compounds and his shorter books, Textbook of Organic Compounds and Structure and Properties of Organic Compounds. The larger volume was the first textbook to feature the molecular orbital treatment of chemical bonding, which rapidly had a world-wide impact on organic chemistry teaching through translations of the book from English into Spanish (Argentine and Mexican editions), Chinese, Yugoslavian, and German.
Professor Noller was born in St. Louis in 1900, and stayed in his home city to complete bachelor’s and master’s studies at Washington University (BS 1922, MS 1923). In doctoral research at the University of Illinois (PhD 1926) under Roger Adams, he investigated the structure and synthesis of chaulmoogric acid, a derivative of the chaulmoogra tree used at that time as a topical treatment for leprosy. After graduating, he spend a year as chemistry instructor at Northwestern University and in 1927 took a position with Eastman Kodak. He moved to Stanford in 1929 as assistant professor, rising to associate professor in 1935 and full professor in 1939. He retired to emeritus status in 1966.