Walter Thiel (1949 – 2019)

  • Author: ChemViews Magazine
  • Published Date: 27 August 2019
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA
thumbnail image: Walter Thiel (1949 – 2019)

Walter Thiel, Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany, and Honorary Professor at the University of Düsseldorf, Germany, passed away on August 23, 2019.

Thiel was a very well-known theoretical chemist. His research focused on method development in theoretical and computational chemistry and covered ab initio methods, density functional theory (DFT), semiempirical methods, and combined quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) methods. These methods can be used, e.g., to calculate vibration-rotation spectra of small molecules with high accuracy, to understand how transition metal complexes work in homogeneous catalysis, to study very large molecules with useful accuracy, or to investigate enzymatic reactions.

Walter Thiel was born on March 7, 1949, in Treysa, Germany. He studied chemistry at the University of Marburg, Germany, where he received his Ph.D. in 1973. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow with M. J. S. Dewar at the University of Texas at Austin, USA, from 1973 to 1975. Thiel completed his habilitation at the University of Marburg in 1981 and was Associate Professor at the University of Wuppertal, Germany, from 1983 to 1992. He also served as Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, in 1987. From 1992 to 1999, Thiel was Full Professor at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Starting in 1999, he was Director at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, and from 2001 on, he also served as Honorary Professor at the University of Düsseldorf.

Among many other honors, Thiel received the Schrödinger Medal from the World Association of Theoretical Chemists (WATOC) in 2002, the Liebig Medal from the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh, German Chemical Society) in 2012, an ERC Advanced Grant from the European Research Council in 2013, and the Kolos Medal from the Polish Chemical Society (PTChem) in 2017. He was a Member of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts, of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences, and of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.

Thiel served, among many other commitments, as a Member of the Board of Governors of the GDCh from 2012 to 2015, as Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research from 2006 to 2008 and again in 2015, as President of WATOC from 2011 to 2017, and as a Member of the International Advisory Board, State Key Laboratory of Physical Chemistry (PCOSS), Xiamen, China, since 2009. He also served on the Editorial Board of WIREs: Computational Molecular Sciences and had been a Member of the Editorial Board of Angewandte Chemie from 2006 to 2013.

Selected Publications

Also of Interest

  • Liebig Memorial Medal for W. Thiel,
    Jonathan Faiz,
    ChemViews Mag.
    Walter Thiel, Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, Germany, has received the 2012 Liebig Memorial Medal of the GDCh


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Magazine of Chemistry Europe (16 European Chemical Societies) published by Wiley-VCH