Dr. Datz earned his B.S. in chemistry in 1950 and his M.A. in physical chemistry in 1951 from Columbia University. He joined ORNL in 1951 and received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1960.
In 1951, he began work on the application of molecular beam techniques to the study of chemically reactive collisions. The result of this study, which was the first successful effort in this field, helped to lay the foundation for the present field of chemical dynamics, which is concerned with the dynamic properties of reactive atomic and molecular collisions. In 1964, he initiated work in the channeling of energetic heavy ions in crystals that led to the determination of crystal potentials and of states of energetic particles penetrating solids.
In 1978, he initiated work on channeling of relativistic positrons and electrons, which yields radiation in the X-ray region. In 1990, he initiated studies of atomic collisions at ultrarelativistic energies at CERN and, in 1992, he initiated studies of molecular ion recombination in ion storage rings. In addition, he has contributed to studies in high-energy atomic collision phenomena and particle-surface interactions.
Datz was an author of 300 articles and has edited four books on collision processes. He chaired five major conferences, served on the editorial boards of several journals, and was a member of the Committee for Atomic and Molecular Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1962–63, he was a Fulbright senior research fellow.
He was appointed "guest professor" at the FOM Institute of Amsterdam, Aarhus University in Denmark, the University of Paris, Texas A&M University, and the University of Chicago. He was awarded the Swedish Tage Erlander National Science Professorship for 1990–1991. In 1997, he was awarded Doctor Honoris Causis by Stockholm University. In 1998, he was awarded the Davison-Germer Prize for Atomic Physics by the American Physical Society. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
He was appointed corporate fellow in 1979 and senior corporate fellow in 1987.