February 6, 1927–December 10, 1981
BY JOHN C. GILBERT
ROWLAND PETTIT, although educated primarily in the area of physical-organic chemistry, focused his scientific research on organo-transition metal chemistry and brought a level of creativity and a “nose” for the issues of significance in the subject that justly earned him international recognition. As one who enjoyed both intellectual and technical challenges, Rolly made contributions that addressed problems ranging from those of largely theoretical and academic interest to those of substantial practical and industrial importance. The broad scope of his research is epitomized by his work on the synthesis and reactions of cyclobutadiene iron tricarbonyl, the role of orbital symmetry in metal-catalyzed isomerizations of strained hydrocarbons, and the mechanisms of the water gas shift reaction and the Fischer-Tropsch process.
Rolly was born in Port Lincoln, Australia, a small town in the southern part of the country, on February 6, 1927. The eldest of four sons, he was the only one to venture into the world of science. Many of the stories that Rolly enjoyed telling about his formative years in Port Lincoln revolved about fishing expeditions in the shark-infested waters near there. Following his precollege education he matriculated