In memoriam: Miran K. Chantooni Jr., Ph.D.

Miran Kevork Chantooni Jr., 91, of Minneapolis died on June 5, 2020. He earned his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1960, and for more than 30 years was the dedicated and devoted post-doctoral associate for Professor Izaak Maurits Kolthoff, considered to be the Father of Analytical Chemistry.

Chantooni was born on Jan. 27, 1929, in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of Miran Kevork and Sroosh (Tiryakian) Chantooni. According to the Star Tribune obituary, "Growing up, Miran's mother had instilled a love for music in her children. Miran began composing piano stanzas in grade school and by high school, he had composed the football rouser at Roosevelt High School. He had his sights set on becoming a professional composer but his father thought he could not earn a steady income as a composer and suggested he turn his sights to a career in science."

Chantooni was also a natural at math and science, earning the nickname as "a walking encyclopedia" in school and winning the Whiz Kid competition in high school. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Iowa in 1951, and his Master's degree under the tutelage of Professor Charles Tanford at the University of Iowa in 1954. He started as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota in 1954, which included an internship at 3M in 1955, and working as a teaching assistant for a couple of years. After earning his doctorate in 1960, Chantooni worked alongside Professor Kolthoff as a senior post-doctoral associate, helping him to publish numerous papers. He is listed on 34 publications with more than 900 citations. He worked at the Department of Chemistry until 1990, and continued as a volunteer researcher, publishing Kolthoff-related manuscripts after Professor Kolthoff's death in 1993. Chantooni continued to work on his projects as a volunteer until 2012, using office and laboratory space hosted by other faculty in the department.

During Chantooni’s years with Professor Kolthoff as a doctorate student and into his post-doctoral work, he studied Brønsted acid-base chemistry in acetonitrile, a polar but aprotic solvent. This advanced the work of two of Kolthoff’s most highly respected students, Stanley Bruckenstein, who became a chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota and later the chair of the Department of Chemistry at SUNY Buffalo, and Johan Coetzee who went on to be a chemistry professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Without doubt, these three became the leading experts in this field. The last major subject that Professor Kolthoff undertook was the cation binding chemistry of macrocyclic compounds including cryptands and crown ethers. Chantooni was Kolthoff’s lead researcher in this important area. Kolthoff quickly recognized its importance and when the first Kolthoff Lectureship in Chemistry was given in the Department of Chemistry in 1979, Jean Marie Lehn was the lecturer. Subsequently Lehn and Donald Cram shared the Nobel Prize for their work in this area (1987).

Among his honors, Chantooni was listed as a noteworthy chemist and researcher by Marquis Who's Who. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, and Sigma Xi. He was also a member for the Neighborhood Revitalization Program in Minneapolis for a number of years, and enjoyed stamp collecting and gardening.