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Alumni Hall of Fame 2009
Ted Mill’s contributions to environmental chemistry led to international guidelines for identifying potentially harmful new chemicals to protect the environment and have enhanced SRI’s reputation in the sciences. Ted Mill came to SRI in 1960 from the Du Pont Experimental Station. At SRI, he exhibited strong leadership of the Physical Organic Chemistry Department staff, which ranged from 15 to over 30 members for more than 20 years.
In the 1970s Ted Mill began two new areas of research related to oxidation chemistry. One area focused on how vitamin E trapped radicals in biomembranes and how these membranes affected reactivity of the radicals, thereby advancing our knowledge of the role of free radicals in heart and aging diseases. The second area of radical research, funded by the National Science Foundation, showed that oxidizing radicals form in sunlit rivers and lakes. The discovery led to better understanding of how sunlight degrades organic compounds dissolved in natural waters. In many additional studies, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and European regulators, experimental and theoretical methods were developed to predict how fast chemicals are transformed and degraded in air or water.
Ted Mill’s research has significant social value in giving both regulators and chemical manufacturers clear guidelines for identifying potentially harmful chemicals before introduction to the environment and therefore for regulating their use. SRI’s methods were adopted by the United States as well as the European Union and remain the principal means of safeguarding against widespread introduction of new persistent chemicals such as PCBs, DDT, or MTBE. In 1998, Ted Mill assumed an emeritus staff position in the chemistry laboratory, where he continues research in oxidation and environmental chemistry.