Obituary: Thomas R. Sweeney, chemical researcher

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thomas R. Sweeney Chemical Researcher

Thomas R. Sweeney, 95, who led a project to develop an antimalarial drug at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, died June 14 of congestive heart failure at Emeritus at Arlington, an Arlington County assisted living facility.

Dr. Sweeney began his career as a research chemist in the 1940s and worked at the University of Maryland, National Institutes of Health and U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. He joined Walter Reed in 1959.

When he retired in 1980, he was deputy director of the division of experimental therapeutics and chief of the medicinal chemistry department.

Dr. Sweeney spent much of his career developing an antimalarial drug for the Army and gave the resulting drug its name, mefloquine. He participated in many study groups and was an adviser to the World Health Organization, a delegate to a NATO panel on radiation and a member of an international radiology congress in Tokyo in 1969.

He was a consultant to the National Cancer Institute and a speaker for the American Chemical Society, and he wrote two books and many technical articles in his field. He received an Army award for meritorious service.

Thomas Richard Sweeney was born in Albany, N.Y., and moved as an infant to Washington. He graduated from McKinley Tech High School and from the University of Maryland. He received a doctorate in organic chemistry from Maryland during World War II.

He was a member of the American Chemical Society, the honorary research society Sigma Xi, the New York Academy of Sciences and the Cosmos Club.

He enjoyed tennis, golf and playing the piano.

His wife of 48 years, Mary Frances Gillean Sweeney, died in 1989.

Survivors include two children, Thomas R. Sweeney Jr. of Arlington and Laurel Sweeney of Apollo Beach, Fla.; and a grandson.

-- Matt Schudel

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