Daniel S. Kemp

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For the American actor, see Dan Kemp.

Daniel Schaeffer Kemp (born October 20, 1936) is an American organic chemist. He is a professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is best known for being the author of a widely used organic chemistry textbook.


Kemp was born in Portland, Oregon. He received his Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Reed College in 1958 and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1964 where he was elected to the Harvard Society of Fellows.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 1993 — Everett Moore Baker Memorial Award
  • 1997 — Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award of the American Chemical Society
  • 2000 — Ralph F. Hirschmann Award in Peptide Chemistry of the American Chemical Society


  • "[Favorable equilibrium combined with high energy barrier] is generally the case with high explosives. Explosives without this barrier are not likely to store well. A company which makes these is likely to go out of business unexpectedly."
  • "For those of you who chose chemistry because of an excess of testosterone... Well, that's why I got in: the thought that I could make gunpowder. And some of us did survive. And some of us ended up teaching on university faculties. I won't even tell you what happened to those of us who didn't."
  • "It's early in the term - you should be able to observe this before the mental rot sets in."
  • "The word alcohol comes from 'cohol' - it's related to a pigment you use around the eyelids to get a sense of enhanced attraction or beauty... or late nights or something."
  • "You take a monkey (who is third in the social order)... inject him with testosterone... give him a ton... enough to grow antlers and a beard...you'll find that he's still subservient to monkeys one and two, but he has become a total bastard to four and five."
  • "A pure substance has no [chemically detectable] history." Organic Chemistry I, Fall 1968, as a visiting professor at UC San Diego. (At that time, his textbook-to-be was a not-yet-submitted draft.)


  • Kemp, Daniel S.; Frank Vellaccio (1980). Organic Chemistry. Worth Publishers. ISBN 0-87901-123-8. Our topic sequence begins with the chemistry of alcohols and alkyl halides and progresses to the addition reactions of carbonyl derivatives. In departing from the organization followed in most modern textbooks and returning to the sequence used in Conant's classic text, we have been motivated by two observations. In our classrooms, we have found that this topic order permits polar reaction chemistry, synthesis, and biochemistry to be taught more easily and naturally than a sequence that begins with hydrocarbons. Conversations with instructors at other institutions have convinced us that many of them are looking for a text emphasizing the chemistry of the oxygen- and nitrogen-containing functional groups that can be used with enthusiasm by the average college student. 

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