Alsoph Corwin

[ Age 99 ] Hopkins chemistry professor, department head taught for 41 years and developed a process used in archaeology.

During World War II, he and his wife commuted to school on a tandem bicycle to save on gasoline.

April 27, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun reporter

Alsoph Henry Corwin, a retired Johns Hopkins University chemistry professor and department chairman who taught for 41 years, died of congestive heart failure April 20 at Baltimore Washington Medical Center. The longtime Lauraville resident was 99.

A Hopkins biographical sketch said that his research led to an improved understanding of photosynthesis and the chemistry of chlorophyll and hemoglobin. He developed a chemical method used by archaeologists and paleographers, and in research of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

"There was nothing he thought he couldn't accomplish," said a niece, Katharine Dougherty of Millersville. "If the plumbing broke, he was going to fix it. He was never going to give up on anything easily. He was curious about everything."

Born in Marietta, Ohio, he earned a bachelor's degree from Marietta College and his doctorate at Harvard University, where he worked in organic chemistry and studied with James B. Conant, who became president of Harvard University.

Dr. Corwin joined the Hopkins faculty in 1932, and six years later married Irene M. Davis, the university's assistant registrar - and later registrar and an admissions director. The Corwins became well known on the Homewood campus and often entertained students at their home over the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.

The Corwins drove to their jobs in their 1930s Essex Terraplane sedan before World War II. During the war, they commuted from their Northeast Baltimore home on a tandem bicycle to save on gasoline consumption.

Dr. Corwin was chairman of the chemistry department from 1944 to 1947.

At his 1973 retirement, an article in the Johns Hopkins News-Letter said Dr. Corwin was "remembered by the average pre-med student for his grueling homework problems, fluorescent bow tie, wire-rimmed glasses and classic smile." Family members said he owned dozens of bow ties.

In retirement, the Corwins spent summers traveling around the country in a motor home and visiting former students.

Over the years Dr. Corwin served as a consultant to numerous major corporations, including the Baltimore-based pharmaceutical company Hynson Wescott and Dunning, and to the federal government.

Marietta College awarded him an honorary doctorate of science in 1953, and in 1987 Hopkins awarded him an honorary doctorate of humane letters. He received the Maryland Chemist Award in 1963 and the 1974 Jonathan Forman gold medal from the Society of Clinical Ecology, now the American Academy of Environmental Medicine.

In 1989, his former students gathered to honor him and established the Alsoph H. Corwin Chair in Chemistry at the Hopkins School of Arts and Sciences.

After Dr. Corwin's retirement, he discovered that he had food allergies and undertook a study of allergens. Working in his home, he also investigated antidotes to cadmium, mercury and lead poisoning. He became a believer in Vitamin C and attributed it to his long life, family members said.

At his request, no public service is planned.

In addition to his niece, survivors include a great-nephew, Michael Dougherty of Baltimore. His wife died in 1994.

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