T. M. (Terry) Balthazor was born in rural Kansas where his family has been engaged in agriculture since homesteading in the late 1800s. He attended public schools and became first in his family to receive a university degree; B.S. (summa cum laude) Fort Hays State University in 1971. He continued his education at the University of Illinois, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1975 under the direction of Professor J. C. Martin.
After graduation, Dr. Balthazor joined Monsanto as a bench scientist. He assumed a number of scientific, leadership and strategic analysis roles over the next quarter century, and retired as Vice President and Director of Research. His personal research and that of his research department provided numerous commercial opportunities for Monsanto ranging from new active ingredients, novel genes and new processes for the manufacture of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup® herbicide). The process chemistry breakthroughs allowed what was hitherto a specialty product to become the most successful agricultural product in history. In addition, Dr. Balthazor isolated the first microorganisms capable of biodegrading glyphosate. Beyond the safety and environmental impact of this discovery, such organisms were the source of genes in the development of the first and most successful example of herbicide tolerant transgenic plants utilized in modern agriculture (Roundup Ready®).
While at the U of I, he synthesized the first example of a chiral trigonal bypyramidal structure. His synthetic strategy utilized ring strain to prevent racemization via pseudorotation, ordinarily facile for such structures. He went on to define the mechanism of hydrolysis of such compounds based on extensive stereochemical and kinetic studies. Throughout his career he focused much of his efforts on the chemistry of sulfur, phosphorus and iodine. Beyond their chemistry per se, he enjoyed creating novel heterocycles incorporating these elements.
After leaving Monsanto, Dr. Balthazor founded TMB Scientific, LLC, a scientific consulting firm specializing in technology analysis and strategic research planning. Clients included science based startups, investment banks and large commercial companies, both national and global.
Dr. Balthazor provided the initial financial support for the Beak-Pines Conference and the Frontiers in Organic Chemistry Symposium. Since retiring, he has continued his advocacy of science and public education. He lives in Columbia, MO with his wife, Kay, an educator and counselor at Goodwill Industries and Saint Louis University.