Department of Chemistry



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Saying Goodbye, Dr. Erwin Buncel

Dr. Erwin Buncel 1931-2018Dr. Erwin Buncel passed away on December 19, 2018.

For over 50 years Erwin was a one of the pillars of our department. He joined the chemistry department in 1962, and was research-active well beyond his retirement in 1997.

He co-supervised students as recently as 2015. Erwin also published over 400 papers, over 20 book chapters and review articles, three books and over a dozen edited monographs. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and has received many awards for his work in physical-organic, bioorganic and bioinorganic chemistry. In 1998 a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Chemistry was published in his honour.

Erwin had a strong loyalty to our department and cared deeply about our students. In 2008, Erwin, his wife Penny and daughters Irene and Jacqui established the Dr. Erwin Buncel Scholarship to support students who enter the 3rd year of a chemistry program.

Erwin was born in Presov, eastern Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), in 1931; he and his family suffered greatly during the atrocities of the Second World War. The Buncel scholarship had been established in memory of his parents, Ignacz and Irena, and his sister Marta, who were persecuted and died during the war.

Erwin only received a continuous and high-quality education after moving to England in 1946, where he attended William Ellis Grammar School in London, obtained a B.Sc. degree and eventually a Ph.D. at University College London on organosilicon chemistry in 1957. He then performed postdoctoral research at the University of North Carolina with Joe Bunnett, and at McMaster with Arthur Bourns. After a brief stint as an industrial chemist at the American Cyanamid Central Research Labs in Stamford, CT, he returned to Canada to join our department at Queen’s in 1962. He quickly rose through the ranks and was a Full Professor by 1970.

Erwin’s many humanitarian contributions must be mentioned; he was the director of a CIDA-funded project for the establishment of the Centre for Agrochemical Technology in Nigeria, and he served as the Canadian representative on the IUPAC initiative Chemical Research Applied to World Needs (CHEMRAWN). In his humble and gentle way Erwin was making our world a better place.

He will be missed by all of us!

Erwin Buncel obituary from the Globe and Mail (PDF, 78 KB)