|Died||December 26, 1981 (aged 80)|
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
|Alma mater||University of Arizona|
University of California, Berkeley
|Known for||Transition state theory|
|Spouse(s)||Mildred Bennion; Winifred Brennan|
|Children||3, including Henry B. Eyring|
|Awards||Wolf Prize in Chemistry (1980)|
Priestley Medal (1975)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1969)
Irving Langmuir Award (1968)
National Medal of Science (1966)
Peter Debye Award (1964)
Newcomb Cleveland Prize (1932)
University of Utah
|Doctoral students||Keith J. Laidler|
J O Hirschfelder
|Other notable students||John L. Magee|
Eyring, a third-generation member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), was reared on a cattle ranch in Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, a Mormon colony, for the first 11 years of his life. His father, Edward Christian Eyring, practiced plural marriage; Edward married Caroline Romney (1893) and her sister Emma Romney (1903), both daughters of Miles Park Romney, the great-grandfather of Mitt Romney. In July 1912, the Eyrings and about 4,200 other immigrants were driven out of Mexico by violent insurgents during the Mexican Revolution and moved to El Paso, Texas. After living in El Paso for approximately one year, the Eyrings relocated to Pima, Arizona, where he completed high school and showed a special aptitude for mathematics and science. He also studied at Gila Academy in Thatcher, Arizona, now Eastern Arizona College. One of the pillars at the front of the main building still bears his name, along with that of his brother-in-law, Spencer W. Kimball, later president of the LDS Church.
By 1919, Eyring had received a state fellowship to the University of Arizona, where he received degrees in mining engineering, metallurgy, and chemistry. He subsequently pursued and received his doctoral degree in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1927 for a thesis entitled: A Comparison of the Ionization by, and Stopping Power for, Alpha Particles of Elements and Compounds.
After a review of his dissertation, Princeton University recruited Eyring as an instructor in 1931. He would continue his work at Princeton until 1946 when he was offered a position as dean of the graduate school at the University of Utah. The chemistry building on the University of Utah campus is now named in his honor.
A prolific writer, he authored more than 600 scientific articles, ten scientific books, and a few books on the subject of science and religion. He received the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 1980 and the National Medal of Science in 1966 for developing the Absolute Rate Theory or Transition state theory of chemical reactions, one of the most important developments of 20th-century chemistry. Several other chemists later received the Nobel Prize for work based on it, and his failure to receive the Nobel was a matter of surprise to many. The Nobel Prize organization admitted that "Strangely, Eyring never received a Nobel Prize"; the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences apparently did not understand Eyring's theory until it was too late to award him the Nobel. The academy awarded him the Berzelius Medal in 1977 as partial compensation. Sterling M. McMurrin believed Eyring should have received the Nobel Prize but was not awarded it because of his religion.
Eyring married Mildred Bennion. She was a native of Granger, Utah, who had a degree from the University of Utah and served as head of the physical education department there. She met Eyring while pursuing a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin. They had three sons together. The oldest, Edward M. "Ted" Eyring was an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Utah. The second son, Henry B. Eyring is a general authority of the LDS Church, while the youngest son Harden B. Eyring is a higher education administrator for the State of Utah. His wife, Mildred, died June 25, 1969, in Salt Lake City, Utah. On August 13, 1971, he married Winifred Brennan in the LDS Church's Salt Lake Temple.
Eyring was a member of the LDS Church throughout his life. His views of science and religion were captured in this quote: "Is there any conflict between science and religion? There is no conflict in the mind of God, but often there is conflict in the minds of men." Eyring also feared overeager defenders of faith would discard new scientific findings because of apparent contradictions. He encouraged parents and teachers to distinguish between "what they know to be true and what they think may be true," to avoid clumping them together and "throwing the baby out with the bath.": 245–247
As a member of the LDS Church, Eyring served as a branch president, district president, and, for over twenty years, a member of the general board of the Deseret Sunday School Union. His son, Henry B. Eyring, is currently an apostle and member of the church's First Presidency.
Henry Eyring authored, co-authored, or edited the following books or journals: