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Daniel Swern

Daniel Swern

American chemist and professor
Daniel Swern
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American chemist and professor
Was Chemist Professor Scientist
From United States of America
Type Academia Science
Gender male
Birth 21 January 1916, New York City, New York, USA
Death 5 December 1982, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA (aged 66 years)
Star sign Aquarius
Mother: Ida (Sternfield) Swern
Father: Philip Swern
Spouse: Ann Siegel
Children: Harriet SolomonDorothy Federman
City College, New York BS (-1935)
Columbia University, New York MA (-1936)
University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland Ph.D. (-1940)
Peoplepill ID daniel-swern
The details


Daniel Swern (January 21, 1916 – December 5, 1982) was an American chemist and chemistry professor best known for his work on the epoxidation of fatty acids and organic peroxides. He is credited with devising a process for using oxidized soybean oil to alter the texture and flexibility of vinyl.

His research interests covered the synthesis of several classes of organic compounds which include steroids, nitrosamines, small heterocycles, sultilimines, and sulfoximines. His interest in steroids stemmed from the discovery that derivatives of dehydroepiandrosterone suppress the occurrence of breast and skin cancer in mice previously treated with carcinogens.

Early life and education

Swern was born on January 21, 1916, in New York City, New York to Philip and Ida (Sternfield) Swern.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from City College, New York, in 1935. In 1936, he received a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University, New York, and in 1940, a Ph.D. degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland.

He had a brother, Leonard.


After finishing his education, Swern worked for the Eastern region United States Department of Agriculture in Philadelphia, in 1940-1948. His experiments with polyvinyl chlorides, water-insoluble thermoplastic resins, provided the chemical key to change hard and brittle vinyl into softer and more flexible plastics. More than 280 research papers and six books by him have been published. His texts on peroxides and oil and fat products have become standard reference works. In 1948-1963, he was a research supervisor.

He had helped pave the way for the ubiquitous use of plastics and became a chemistry professor and senior researcher at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1963. In 1954-1963, he was also an adjunct professor at Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Swern also was the editor of the 3rd and 4th editions of "Baileys Industrial Oil and Fat Products", the latter of which was expanded from one to two volumes under his editorship with a third added in 1985 after his death. Swern was also the recipient of the AOCS Award in Lipid Chemistry (1968).

Swern oxidation

The Swern oxidation, named after Daniel Swern, is a chemical reaction whereby a primary or secondary alcohol is oxidized to an aldehyde or ketone using oxalyl chloride, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), and an organic base, such as triethylamine. The reaction is known for its mild character and wide tolerance of functional groups.


  • 1955: received Arthur S. Flemming Award for government service.
  • 1963: received American Chemical Society Award.
  • 1966: received Alton E. Bailey Award.
  • 1968: received American Oil Chemists' Society Lipid Award.

Selected books

Personal life

Swern was married to his wife, the former Ann Siegel. They had two daughters, Harriet Solomon and Dorothy Federman.


Swern died of a heart attack on December 5, 1982, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was 66 years old.

To cite the article
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Article Title: Daniel Swern: American chemist and professor - Biography and Life
Author(s): PeoplePill.com Editorial Staff
Website Title: PeoplePill
Publisher: PeoplePill
Article URL: https://peoplepill.com/people/daniel-swern/
Publish Date: 08 Nov 2016
Date Accessed: 27 Jan 2021
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