Seemon H. Pines Biography

Seemon H. Pines was born in Portland, Maine and educated in public schools in Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania.  He pursuedSeemon Pines undergraduate studies at Lehigh University, which were postponed for two years of service in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946.  In 1948, Dr. Pines received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.  He continued his academic career at the University of Illinois and became a member of Professor Nelson Leonard’s group.  He received a master’s degree in 1949 and a PhD in 1951 for his thesis titled “The Clemmensen reduction cum rearrangement of α-aminoketones.”

After graduation, Dr. Pines joined Merck and Company as a bench chemist. He devoted his entire career to Merck and ultimately achieved the position of Vice President of Process Research and Development before retiring in 1991. In 1987, he received the Director’s Scientific Award, the highest honor Merck bestows upon its researchers in recognition of outstanding scientific achievements, for his leading role in the commercial development of the broad spectrum antibiotic, Primaxin.  This work is considered one of the greatest synthetic challenges ever brought to commercialization and thus is a benchmark in the pharmaceutical industry.  As a central figure in Merck, Dr. Pines was involved in a variety of projects, including the manufacturing process of niacin, glutamic acid, and penicillin, and other work on methyldopa, indomethacin, carbidopa and sulindac.  Dr. Pines guided the Merck Process Group to a preeminent position in synthesis and process chemistry.

After retiring from Merck in 1991, Dr. Pines spent time traveling and documenting his experiences through photography.  On October 13, 2000, he was honored with the 2000 LAS Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Illinois in recognition of his lifetime of outstanding accomplishments.  On May 18, 2012, he died at the age of 86.

We are honored and grateful that Dr. Pines chose to allocate the monetary portion of his Director’s Scientific Award to the Chemistry Department at the University of Illinois.  This generous grant helps to sponsor the Beak-Pines Organic Area Allerton Conference each year.  The conference gives chemistry researchers in the organic area the opportunity to present their accomplishments in research and opens communication among various research groups.  We look forward to honoring the memory of Dr. Pines this year with the Twenty-Sixth Annual Beak-Pines Organic Area Allerton Conference.