University of California, San Diego


May 24, 2007


SUBJECT:    In Memoriam: Founding Chemist Stanley L. Miller

Stanley L. Miller, one of the founding chemists at UCSD, died on Sunday, May 20, 2007 at Paradise Hospital in National City.

An emeritus professor of chemistry and biochemistry, his famous laboratory experiments in 1952 demonstrated how the simple organic compounds considered necessary for the origin of life could have been synthesized on the primitive Earth.

Miller was a graduate student at the University of Chicago in the 1950s, working under the late Harold Urey, a Nobel laureate who later moved to La Jolla and founded UCSD's chemistry department. On May 15, 1953, Miller published a landmark paper in the journal Science detailing a novel experiment that produced the building blocks of life from nothing more than hydrogen, water, methane and ammonia.

The first assistant professor of chemistry recruited to work at UCSD, Miller continued his research into the chemical origins of life for over four decades in La Jolla and helped to establish the university's strong tradition of interdisciplinary research.

He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1951 and his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1954. He spent a year at Caltech on a fellowship, then five more years at Columbia University before joining the faculty of the newly formed San Diego campus of the University of California.

Most of his research was done at UCSD and had been focused on the origin of life, especially the prebiotic synthesis of small molecules. In addition, he was a pioneer in the investigation of the natural occurrence of clathrate hydrates, the mechanism of the action of general anesthetics and the thermodynamics of bioorganic compounds.

Miller was a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. He received the Oparin Medal from the International Society of the Study of the Origin of Life in 1983 and was president of the society from 1986 to 1989. He was also an Honorary Counselor of the Higher Council for Scientific Research of Spain in 1973.

He is survived by his family consisting of his brother Donald, a retired physical chemist, and sister-in-law Miriam of Livermore, CA; two nieces, Nancy Miller of Washington, DC and Lynne Miller Franco of Silver Spring, MD., and her two children, Lucio and Elena Franco of Silver Spring, MD.; and his devoted care-giver and companion Maria Morris.

No funeral service is planned, although a memorial service will be scheduled at a future date. Miller's family requests that donations be sent to the

Miller Archival Fund at the UCSD Libraries
Attn: Barbara Brink
9500 Gilman Drive - MC0175G
La Jolla, CA 92093

Mark Thiemens
Division of Physical Sciences