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W. Conway Pierce
Born (1895-12-02)December 2, 1895
Carrollton, Kentucky
Died December 23, 1974(1974-12-23) (aged 79)
B.A. Georgetown College, 1920
  • M.A University of Chicago, 1925
  • Ph.D University of Chicago, 1928[1]
Title Emeritus professor of chemistry[2]
Spouse(s) Kate Shewmaker (m. 1921)[3]
Children Willis C. "Bill" Pierce
President's Certificate of Merit (1948)

Willis Conway Pierce (December 2, 1895 – December 23, 1974[3]) was an American chemist and professor in the University of California system.


During World War I, Pierce served in the United States Army Chemical Corps.[3] Pierce began teaching in 1920, at the University of Kentucky later teaching at University of South Dakota. He stayed on at the University of Chicago after receiving his Ph.D. to teach quantitative analysis.[4] During this time he co-authored seminal chemistry textbook Quantitative Analysis with Edward Lauth Haenisch.[3] Quantitative Analysis would go through 21 editions until 1963.[5] During World War II, Pierce worked for the Office of Scientific Research and Development's National Defense Research Committee. Pierce had been recruited by his doctoral advisor, W. Albert Noyes, Jr., to join the "division 10" central laboratory at Northwestern University. Pierce's lab focused on chemical warfare defense and developed carbon filtering for use in chemical protective masks.[6] Pierce's work included an assignment in Australia and the South Pacific.[3] He was awarded the President's Certificate of Merit in 1948 for his services.[1]

From 1945 to 1953, Pierce served as the chair of the chemistry department at Pomona College. During this time, fellow chemistry professor and well-known practical joker R. Nelson Smith pranked Pierce by releasing several pigeons from the ceiling during one of Pierce's lectures. Pierce took the joke in stride by bringing a shotgun to the next class.[7][8] Pierce would later co-author a chemistry textbook, Solving General Chemistry Problems, with Nelson.[9] Pierce was recruited by Gordon S. Watkins to serve as the head of the Physical Sciences department at the then newly opened University of California, Riverside (UCR) in 1953.[4][10][11][12] Pierce was awarded the 1963 Honor Scroll from the American Institute of Chemists for "outstanding contributions to the training of chemists and the advancement of the profession."[13]

After retiring from UCR in 1965, Pierce provided input on University of California, Irvine's new chemistry building.[14][15] Pierce Hall on UCR is named for him.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "W.C. Pierce Faculty Lecturer". University of California. 26 January 1959. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  2. "Honorary degrees". June 7, 1965. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 "1976, University of California: In Memoriam". University of California. March 1976. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "1963 W. Conway Pierce, UC Riverside". Southern California Chapter of the American Chemical Society. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  5. "Pierce, Willis Conway 1895–". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  6. "Interview of James N. Pitts, Jr.". American Meteorological Society. August 1, 2007. 
  7. Dolinar, Sarah (Spring 2002). "The Prankster's Rules". 
  8. Smith, R.Nelson; Zettlemoyer, Al; Rowland, F.S; Brunauer, Stephen; Beebe, Ralph (January 1976). "A tribute to the memory of Willis Conway Pierce (1895–1974)". pp. 1. Bibcode 1976JCIS...54....1S. Digital object identifier:10.1016/0021-9797(76)90276-9. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  9. "Solving general chemistry problems". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  10. "Transcription of Oral History Interview with George K. Helmkamp". University of California, Riverside. July 22, 1998. 
  11. Pierce, W. Conway (February 15, 1954). "The Physical Sciences". 
  12. Kerr, Clark (2001). The Gold and the Blue: A Personal Memoir of the University of California, 1949–1967. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520223677. 
  13. "Ocean Water Use by LA is Predicted". Fresno, California. September 22, 1963. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  14. "Interview with Mabry Steinhaus". University of California, Irvine. June 25, 1974. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  15. "Interview with Ivan Hinderaker". University of California, Irvine. March 16, 1974. 

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