The Crystallographic Community

Peder Kierkegaard (1928-1996)

J. Appl. Cryst. (1997). 30, 86

Professor Peder Kierkegaard, Swedish crystallographer and chemist, was born in 1928 and suddenly passed away on 29 January 1996. He spent his entire academic career at Stockholm University where he obtained his PhD in 1955. In 1962 he obtained his DSc and was appointed Assistant Professor of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry. In 1970 he became the first holder of the newly established chair of structural chemistry. He remained in that position until his emeritus retirement in 1994.

Research at the Laboratory of General and Inorganic Chemistry at the University had, since the pioneering work by Arne Westgren in the 1920s, been directed towards X-ray crystallographic studies of alloys and inorganic compounds. For his DSc thesis he chose a field not previously treated at the Laboratory, viz. transition metal oxide phosphates. That this was a wise choice was very clearly demonstrated by his excellent thesis in 1962. Among several subsequent papers in the field is the much quoted article on the structure of a sodium zirconium phosphate, known to everybody interested in solid electrolytes as the Nasicon structure.

Over the years Kierkegaard retained an interest in metal phosphates and similar inorganic compounds but his scientific curiosity soon drove him to explore other fields of structural chemistry. Thus, with young co-workers, studies were undertaken of metal complexes, organic molecules and substances of biochemical interest. X-ray diffraction studies were also made of glasses and liquids. In research on equilibria in solutions the diffraction studies were complemented with potentiometric measurements. New apparatus was developed and constructed for collecting accurate diffraction data for non-crystalline specimens.

In the late 1960s Kierkegaard and his co-workers took an active part in an international collaboration involving systematic studies of a series of flavin derivatives with the aim to provide detailed structural information on the reactions of flavoenzymes. Other areas of study included structural characterization of sugar derivatives and investigations of molecular complexes of host-guest type.

Over the years a large number of students and co-workers gathered around Kierkegaard. He was generous with ideas and advice. He put indefatigable effort into acquiring modern high-standard research facilities for his staff. He was successful in transmitting his enthusiasm for research and created a very positive collaborative atmosphere in the laboratory.

Kierkegaard possessed exceptional organizing skills which he used in the service of the University at many posts including its board of directors. He was active for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, of which he became a member in 1982, and for the National Committee for Crystallography . He was an organizer of several international conferences. Since 1987 he had served as secretary of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry. The day before his death he was at his office at the Academy recording nomination letters for the 1996 Nobel Prize.

Openness and naturalness were genuine with Kierkegaard. He treated everybody alike. He was a strong leader, but one who preferred to lead by cooperation. He loved to solve problems over daily morning coffee at the laboratory. He had an unusual talent for friendship and will be missed and remembered by many.

R. Norrestam
A. Magneli