Alsoph Henry Corwin, 99, professor emeritus in the
Krieger School of Arts and Sciences' Department of
Chemistry, died on April 20 at Baltimore Washington
Medical Center due to postsurgical complications from a
Corwin joined the Johns Hopkins University faculty in
1932 after earning his PhD at Harvard under James B.
Conant. His entire career, spanning more than 40 years, was
spent as a teacher, mentor and researcher at Johns Hopkins,
where he served as chair of the Department of Chemistry
from 1944 to 1947. During his tenure, he was a member of
the Academic Council and chairman of the Physical Sciences
Group of the Faculty of Philosophy.
Corwin is credited with making significant
contributions to several branches of chemistry. For
instance, his work led to a clearer and more complete
understanding of photosynthesis and the chemistry of
chlorophyll and hemoglobin. His research also resulted in
the development of a method for restoring highly corroded
copper antiquities that has proven invaluable to
archaeologists and paleographers, and scientists can now
accurately weigh items as tiny and light as particles of
dust because of high-precision microbalances he designed.
But it was Corwin's work directing the doctoral
research of numerous graduate students and initiating an
extensive program of research for undergraduates that
earned him students' great respect and enduring affection.
When Corwin announced in 1972 his decision to retire, The
News-Letter saluted him as a legendary figure "remembered
by the average pre-med student for his grueling homework
problems, fluorescent bow tie, wire-rimmed glasses and
Seventeen years later, former students from as close
by as Baltimore and as far away at Japan, India and Nigeria
gathered to honor their teacher, mentor and friend by
establishing the Alsoph H. Corwin Chair in Chemistry in the
Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. The chair was
fully endowed in 1997 by his many former students and
In 1938, Corwin married Johns Hopkins registrar Irene
M. Davis (always known, even after her marriage, simply as
"Miss Davis"), and the couple quickly became a fixture on
the Homewood campus. The two hosted numerous
student-centered parties, and invited those who were unable
to travel home for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays
to share theirs. "Warm" and "welcoming" were the two words
that students used to describe the Corwin household.
During World War II, the professor and his wife
commuted to Homewood from their Lauraville home on a tandem
bicycle to conserve gasoline. In retirement, they spent
many summers traveling around the country in their motor
home and visiting former students.
The professor's interest in research continued into
his retirement, encompassing areas as diverse as allergens
— he discovered later in life that he suffered from a
variety of food allergies — and antidotes. In his
home office and lab, he worked on developing antidotes to
cadmium, mercury and lead poisoning, particularly
derivatives of dithizone. He became extremely curious about
Linus Pauling's work in the field of vitamins, and after
much personal examination, came to the conclusion that
Pauling's assertions about vitamin C and its effect on
longevity were valid. In fact, Corwin attributed his long
life to daily consumption of large doses of many vitamins,
especially vitamin C.
Over the years Corwin served as a consultant to
numerous major corporations and branches of the U.S.
government. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi and
Alpha Epsilon Delta. The honorary degree of doctor of
science was awarded to him in 1953 by his alma mater,
Marietta College. He received the Maryland Chemist Award in
1963, the Distinguished American Award of the Marietta
(Ohio) Chamber of Commerce in 1978 and the Humanitarian
Award of the American Academy of Medical Preventics in
1980. He was the first honorary Theron G. Randolph Lecturer
of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine in 1985
and, in 1987, Johns Hopkins awarded him an honorary
doctorate of humane letters. In 2002 Marietta College
acknowledged his significant contributions to the science
world by naming him to its Alumni Hall of Honor.
Corwin's wife died in 1994. He is survived by a niece,
Katharine Dougherty of Millersville, and a great-nephew,
Michael Dougherty of Baltimore.