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John B. Fenn, Virginia professor who won Nobel Prize in chemistry, dies at 93

Professor John Fenn worked into his last decade and believed that college courses "ought to be fun."
Professor John Fenn worked into his last decade and believed that college courses "ought to be fun."

"That made me angry, because we were right in the middle of things," he said, "and so I fought tooth and nail."

He and Yale battled for a decade over the rights to his prize-winning invention, and in 2005 Dr. Fenn was ordered to pay Yale $545,000 in royalties and penalties, as well as the university's legal bills.

His wife of 53 years, Margaret Wilson Fenn, died in a car crash in New Zealand in 1992.

Survivors include a son.

In an interview published last year in the Annual Review of Analytical Chemistry, Dr. Fenn expounded on his views about chemistry education.

"Courses ought to be fun," he said. "I don't care whether we cover everything in the periodic table or not. . . . There's no fun any more!

"I wish we cold somehow get it across that the purpose of education is to develop young peoples' minds, not fill them up with a lot of facts," he said. "Teach them how to think."


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