George Pimentel, a world-recognized leader in chemical research who was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan, died at his Kensington, Calif., home Sunday of cancer.
The veteran professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley and former deputy director of the National Science Foundation was 67.
"He was a great teacher and a leader in research, education and in services to the university, to the nation and to chemistry," said C. Bradley Moore, dean of the school's College of Chemistry.
Pimentel's major research achievements included the invention of the chemical laser, an analytic tool that harnesses the energy of chemical reactions.
He also led in the development of rapid-scan techniques for infrared spectroscopy which resulted in the design of an infrared spectrometer for the 1969 Mariner interplanetary spacecraft. It was his instrument that first indicated the presence of methane and ammonia on Mars. However, further study determined it was instead frozen carbon dioxide, removing one of the final hopes scientists had held of finding evidence of life on the planet.