Theoretical Chemist Douglas Poland dies at 80

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Douglas Poland, 80, retired Professor of Chemistry, passed away on September 5, 2020. Poland earned a B. A. degree from Cornell University in 1961 and a Ph. D. degree from Cornell in 1966, working with Harold Scheraga. After three years as a postdoc with Scheraga, Doug, as his colleagues called him, joined the Chemistry Department at Johns Hopkins University in 1969. He served as department Chair from 1983 to 1987. He retired in 2014.

Doug was a major contributor to the field of statistical mechanics. This field unifies physical chemistry in that, given the energy levels of quantum mechanics, one can calculate the free energy of thermodynamics (and all of the other functions of thermodynamics). Thus, statistical mechanics joins the microscopic and the macroscopic worlds. Doug’s research involved understanding phase transitions and other singularities as well as order-disorder transitions in biological macromolecules, including proteins and DNA. Doug was a lover of classical music and an excellent and beloved teacher, both at the graduate level and in our freshman introductory chemistry sequence.