Influential chemistry professor and dean of the University of Tennessee Graduate School, Hilton A. Smith was born September 4, 1908, in Plymouth, New York, and reared in North Adams, Massachusetts. After earning a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Harvard in 1934, he taught at Lehigh University (1935-41) before coming to the University of Tennessee. There he helped develop the associations between scientists at Oak Ridge and the university that laid the foundation for the Ph.D. program in chemistry that UT began offering at the end of the war. In 1961 he was named dean of the Graduate School, becoming vice-president for Graduate Studies and Research in 1966 and vice-chancellor for Graduate Studies and Research when the university became part of a statewide system in 1968. In this capacity, Smith continued to advance the university’s doctoral program. He was instrumental in starting the UT-Kingsport Graduate Center, the UT-Chattanooga Engineering Graduate Center, the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma, the Memphis Branch of the UT School of Social Work, and the UT-Oak Ridge Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
The author of more than 130 articles, Smith achieved national recognition for his research in the study of hydrogen isotopes. He isolated the isotope tritium, a form of hydrogen, which is used as a low-cost radioactive isotope. In 1969 he was elected a fellow in the American Institute of Chemists. Smith died in December 1982 and is buried in Knoxville’s Highland Cemetery.