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Lee Irvin Smith papers, 1888-1981

Identifier: uarc00178

Scope and Content Note

Collection includes personal and professional correspondence (1913-1988), awards (diplomas and certificates), scrapbooks and photo albums (primarily relating to awards, events and vacations), loose photos and negatives, and daily journals kept between 1952-1971.


  • 1888-1981


Language of Materials

Collection material in English

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Note

Lee Irvin Smith was born in Indianapolis,Indiana, July 22, 1891. He attended Ohio State University, receiving his B.A. in 1913 and his M.A. in 1915. He went on to attend Harvard University, where he received a second M.A. in 1917 and a Ph.D. in 1920.

After graduating from Harvard, Dr. Smith joined the Chemistry department staff at the University of Minnesota. He began as an Instructor in 1920 and attained a full professorship in 1932. In 1931 he was promoted to Acting Chief and in 1932 became Chief of the Organic Division, a title he held until 1958. He worked as an advisor to graduate students, published 245 papers in chemistry journals, and held numerous patents. He was a consultant with Merck & Co., Inc. (beginning 1941) and General Mills (beginning 1945) until his retirement in 1960.

In 1944, Dr. Smith was elected to the the National Academy of Sciences, one of America’s highest scientific honors. He was also the first recipient of the American Chemical Society’s Minnesota Award, given to him in 1958 in recognition of his outstanding services to chemistry. He served on the board of editors of the Journal of Organic Chemistry, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and Organic Syntheses. Professional society memberships included the American Chemical Society, the Chemical Society of London, the Swiss Chemical Society, and the Deutsches Chemischen Gesellschaft.

Smith’s research in organic chemistry was primarily in the field of reaction mechanisms, polymethylbenzenes, nitrocyclopropanes, quinones, and related compounds. He was perhaps best known for synthesizing Vitamin E in 1939.

Dr. Smith’s hobbies included photography, mountain climbing, horticulture, and classical music. He died in Minneapolis in 1973.


4 boxes


The papers of Lee Irvin Smith (1891-1973), a professor of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota, best known for synthesizing Vitamin E. The collection includes correspondence, personal and professional documents, awards, scrapbooks, and photographs.

Source of acquisition

Correspondence and research data transferred from Chemistry Department in 1971. Further correspondence, papers, and memorabilia donated by J.W. Opie in 1973. Photos, negatives, and additional correspondence recieved in 2001.

Related Materials

Department of Chemistry papers

Frederic King Butters papers

Lee Irvin Smith papers, 1888-1981
Helen Lorraine Walden-Fodge
April 2014
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area