Obituary: Jacob Schaefer, professor emeritus of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, 83

Jacob Schaefer III, the Charles Allen Thomas Emeritus Professor of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, died June 27, 2022, in St. Louis. Schaefer was one of the world’s experts in solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). He was 83 years old.

Schaefer photo

Schaefer was born in San Francisco and lived in Chicago, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, as a child. He attended high school in Lakewood, Ohio. Schaefer earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1960 and his PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1964.

Schaefer joined Monsanto Company as a research scientist in 1964 and worked on the determination of the microstructure of copolymers using solution-state NMR.

He joined the faculty of Washington University in 1986. Schaefer’s research specialty was high-resolution solid-state NMR, a method that offers a powerful, atomic-level probe of the structure and dynamics of insoluble biological and synthetic chemical compounds.

He was the co-inventor of cross-polarization magic-angle spinning and rotational-echo double resonance techniques, both of which have become standard methods used throughout the world.

The Schaefer research program at Washington University made contributions in biology and polymer science through solid-state NMR measurements on large and heterogeneous materials that were not suited to diffraction or solution-state NMR measurements. Schaefer authored more than 300 scientific publications during his career.

“Jake was driven by scientific discovery and exploration. He had scientific prowess and interests that extended well beyond those directly related to his research,” said Richard Loomis, professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences. “Jake also spent a lot of time working with junior faculty; he dove deeply into my research early in my career, and the insights, feedback and support he provided me were instrumental in my successes. There is no doubt that Jake made us — WashU and the chemistry department — a better place.”

Schaefer is survived by his wife Diana Dickes, his three children (Jill Myers and Jacob IV and Thomas Schaefer) and five grandchildren (Sarah, Emily and Matthew Myers and Jacob V and Ian Schaefer), and his first wife, Jane Schaefer.

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