Eulogy for Nathaniel Solon Finney

  Nathaniel Solon Finney began life on October 1, 1967. Though far too short in duration, Nat tackled a multifarious chemical odyssey. His journey began in Urbana at the University of Illinois where as an undergraduate he learned from Professor Steve Zimmerman the power of Physical Organic Chemistry to set order to the structure and properties of matter. From there he pursued his PhD with Professor Andy Myers at Caltech where he developed exceptional abilities for chemical manipulation in the area of sensitive molecule synthesis. Onward the path led him to Harvard and the labs of Professor Eric Jacobsen, the environment of which enriched him in a deeper understanding of catalysis and opened his vistas to the combinatorial and parallel processes in experimental design. The conversion from journey to pilgrimage began at UCSD where he quickly developed as a teacher/scholar loved by students and respected as a scholar. His program comprised projects in total synthesis, medicinal chemistry and chemical sensors. His transition to Zurich came with a focus on chemical sensor research with novel mechanisms for fluorescence "turn-on" responses, although he still maintained a commanding presence as chemical advisor to UZH's Laboratory for Process Chemistry. The fundamental mechanisms of fluorescence became his Pygmalion statue in Tianjin, a pursuit he followed to the end. He recently joked that his mission in life was "to teach dark molecules to see the light." Indeed, the theme of molecular design and chemical synthesis of matter with tailored function well describes Nat's take on chemistry. Often describing himself as someone who suffered from "shiny object syndrome", being all too often distracted from his main focus by his interest in all things intellectual, Nat would regale friends with quotes of his favorite novels, poems and musical lyrics. He had a phenomenal memory and an ability to ferret out facts and tidbits of interest with amazing alacrity. This incredibly agile thinker and writer somewhere between Zurich and Tianjin inauspiciously encountered tribulations in life that none so young as he should need to face. His valiant struggles to stay true to his scholarly dreams and his artful dodger way to avoid tragedy could not break him free from these daily baneful ordeals. Nonetheless, to the end he remained a dreamer, a kind hearted soul and creative spirit on a passionate Poisson voyage that returned him home to rest on October 9, 2021, shortly after his 54th birthday. Nat is survived by his mother and sister Thea, and he will be remembered by a large network of collegial friends and students.