Rice mourns Professor Emeritus Jim Kinsey

James Kinsey, the D.R. Bullard-Welch Foundation Professor of Science Emeritus, died Dec. 20. He was 80.

James Kinsey

James Kinsey

A native Texan, Kinsey earned his bachelor’s degree at Rice in 1956. He also earned a doctorate in chemistry from Rice in 1959 as the first Ph.D. student of 1996 Nobel Prize-winner Robert Curl. Kinsey traveled to Sweden on a fellowship from the National Science Foundation and in 1960 was named a Miller Research Fellow at the University of California-Berkeley.

In 1962 Kinsey joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he served for 26 years, including five as chairman of the Chemistry Department. He returned to Rice in 1988 and served as dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences for 10 years, leading the school through many major accomplishments. In addition, he was interim provost from 1993 to 1994.

Kinsey was known for research in chemical dynamics, spectroscopy, lasers and highly excited molecular states. He was also much admired for providing leadership, while maintaining a low-key and unpretentious manner.

“Jim Kinsey came to Rice with a vision for what we could be and set about in a determined fashion to bring that view into the reality we see today,” said Kathleen Matthews, who succeeded Kinsey as dean of the Wiess School. “But no discussion of him would ignore his wit and sense of humor.”

Kinsey served as chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Robert A. Welch Foundation from 2006 to 2012. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and received the E.O. Lawrence Award of the Department of Energy and the Earle K. Plyler Prize of the American Physical Society. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is a Web editor in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.