raised in a small Minnesota farming community, Willis Flygare went to
the University of California at Berkeley for his graduate work in chemistry,
receiving a Ph.D. in 1961 with W. D. Gwinn for his work in microwave spectroscopy.
Flygare joined the University of Illinois chemistry faculty, also in 1961.
He developed a new experimental method involving the molecular Zeeman
effect, which he used to measure quadrupole moments and magnetic susceptibility
anisotropies of many molecules.
By making improvements affecting line widths, Flygare built a microwave
spectrograph with unsurpassed resolution and used this spectrometer to
determine many spin interaction constants of molecules, which he related
to molecular electronic structural properties. Flygare showed for the
first time the presence of formamide in interstellar space. He determined
the structures of many molecules of chemical interest, and he developed
a new and rapid method involving laser light scattering for determining
electrophoretic mobility and the diffusion constants of large molecules.
Although Flygare died at the age of 44 from the effects of A.L.S, the
impact of his research was broad. His molecular Zeeman studies revealed
details of electronic importance in both organic and inorganic chemistry.
His electrophoretic mobility work was of great interest to biophysical
chemists and his solid-state work gained favorable attention from physicists.
His book, Molecular Structure and Dynamics, is a classic in chemical
physics. Flygares accomplishments in the development of Fourier-transform
microwave spectrometry were recognized by election to the National Academy
of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.