Sydney Archer

January 23, 1917 to August 22, 1996

By Mark P. Wentland


The sudden and untimely death of Sydney Archer on August 22, 1996 at the age of 79 was a great loss to his family, friends, and colleagues; to Rensselaer; and to the field of medicinal chemistry.To those who knew him, Sydney Archer was a man having great wisdom, energy, and character.


Sydney Archer was born in New York City on January 23, 1917.He earned his baccalaureate degree in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in 1937 and received his PhD in organic chemistry in 1940 from Pennsylvania State University under the direction of J. H. Simons.Following postdoctoral appointments at Northwestern and University of Chicago, and a brief period of employment at the Sun Oil Co., Sydney Archer joined the Sterling-Winthrop Research Institute in East Greenbush, NY in 1943 where, during his 30 years of employment, he attained the position of Vice President.It is rare for a medicinal chemist to put his or her thumbprint on a molecule that is marketed to treat human disease.Sydney Archerís thumbprint is on many; these include the analgesic talwin, hycanthone for the treatment of schistosomiasis, a tropical disease, and telepaque, an X-ray contrast agent.


His association with Rensselaer began in 1961 with his appointment as Adjunct Professor of Chemistry with responsibility for teaching medicinal chemistry.Upon his retirement from Sterling-Winthrop in 1973, Dr. Archer assumed his second illustrious career in medicinal chemistry as Research Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Rensselaer.His record of accomplishment has continued at Rensselaer.His interests in the treatment of drug addiction lead the way to the founding of the NYS Capital District Center for Drug Abuse Research and Treatment.Institutions involved in this effort are Rensselaer, Albany Medical College, and the SUNY School of Public Health.The center is unique in an academic environment in that its membership has expertise at all levels necessary to confront the problems of drug abuse from the synthetic chemistry laboratory to the clinic.At the time of his death, Sydney Archer was still extremely active and provided great leadership to drug addiction research programs at the local, state, national, and international levels.He started and maintained research collaborations in this field and others with distinguished scientists throughout the world.His work at Rensselaer was backed by major funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


During the period 1980-85, Dr. Archer served Rensselaer as Dean of the School of Science.Under his leadership, Rensselaer launched the highly successful School of Science Initiative.


Dr. Archer has served on numerous public service committees dedicated to fostering human health worldwide.He has authored over 150 journal articles and over 100 US Patents.In 1980 he was awarded the prestigious Medicinal Chemistry Award sponsored by the American Chemical Society.In recognition of these and other scientific and professional accomplishments, Rensselaer instituted the Archer Lecture Series in Organic and Medicinal Chemistry in 1985 endowed by Sterling-Winthrop.The excellence of the 12 Archer Lecture speakers to date is a true testimony to the excellence of Sydney Archer.


Dr. Archer is survived by his wife, Threse; two sons, Daniel, of Burlington, VT and David of Truckee, CA; and a daughter, Eve Archer of Provincetown, MA.