Ronald Breslow to Receive 2014 American Institute of Chemists (AIC) Gold Medal

Ronald Breslow

January 28, 2014 - Philadelphia

The American Institute of Chemists (AIC) today announced that Ronald Breslow, S. L. Mitchill Professor of Chemistry and University Professor at Columbia University, has been selected to receive the 2014 American Institute of Chemists (AIC) Gold Medal. The award ceremony will be part of Heritage Day 2014 on Thursday, May 15, at the Chemical Heritage Foundation.  

“Ronald Breslow combines extraordinary talent in research with a rare ability to tell the story of chemistry to wide and diverse audiences,” said David Manuta, AIC president. “He is credited with creating the fields of biomimetic systems and nonbenzenoid aromatic chemistry. His work in these areas has led to important breakthroughs in in the fight against cancer by modulating gene transcription in cancer cells.”

Breslow is the author of more than 400 publications, including a widely acclaimed 1996 book, Chemistry Today and Tomorrow: The Central, Useful, and Creative Science. In addition to numerous honors and awards he holds the National Medal of Science and has been named one of the top 75 contributors to the chemical enterprise in the past 75 years. He is an accomplished pianist whose public repertoire extends from popular songs to improvisational jazz. Colleagues continue to marvel at the breadth and depth of his intellect and his passion and enthusiasm for chemistry.

About Ronald Breslow

Ronald Breslow has an A.B. in chemistry, an M.A. in medical science, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University. He spent a year with Lord Todd as a postdoctoral student in Cambridge, England, before coming to Columbia University. He is now a professor of chemistry and biology at Columbia, one of 12 university professors, and a former chairman of the department.

He was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1966; he is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He is a foreign fellow of the Indian National Science Academy, an honorary member of the Korean Chemical Society, an honorary member of the Royal Society of Chemistry of Great Britain, a foreign member of the Royal Society of Britain, a fellow of the World Innovation Foundation, and an honorary member of the Chemical Society of Japan. He is also an honorary professor of the University of Science and Technology of China.

He has been the chairman of the Board of Scientific Advisors of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a member of the Board of Trustees of Rockefeller University. He is on the editorial board of a number of scientific journals and has held over 200 named lectureships and visiting professorships.

In research he has synthesized the cyclopropenyl cation, the simplest aromatic system and the first aromatic compound prepared with other than six electrons in a ring. He established the phenomenon of antiaromaticity and discovered the chemical mechanism used by thiamine (vitamin B1) in biochemical reactions. He has synthesized molecules that imitate enzymatic reactions, including the development of remote functionalization reactions and of artificial enzymes. He has used the hydrophobic effect in organic synthesis and in mechanistic chemistry. Recently he developed a new group of cytodifferentiating agents with approved use in cancer chemotherapy and demonstrated chemistry that can account for the origin of prebiotic homochirality of amino acids and sugars on Earth.

His scientific awards include the American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry, the Fresenius Award, the Baekeland Medal, the Centenary Medal, the Harrison Howe Award, the Remsen Prize, the Roussel Prize in Steroids, the James Flack Norris Prize, the Richards Medal, the Arthur C. Cope Award, the Kenner Award, the Nichols Medal, the National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemistry, the Allan Day Award, the Paracelsus Medal of the Swiss Chemical Society, and the U.S. National Medal of Science. He was named one of the top 75 contributors to the chemical enterprise in the past 75 years in a poll of ACS members conducted by Chemical & Engineering News, and he won the Priestley Medal, the New York City Mayor’s Award in Science, the Bader Award in Bioorganic Chemistry, and the Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest. In 2003 he received the Robert Welch Award in Chemistry, in 2004 he received the Willard Gibbs Award; in 2006 he received the Othmer Gold Medal and the Paul Gassman Medal. In 2007 he received the Organic Syntheses Award; in 2010, the Perkin Medal; in 2012, the Topliss Award; and in 2013, the Frank Westheimer Medal. The American Chemical Society gives an annual award in his name, the Ronald Breslow Award in Biomimetic Chemistry.

He has also received the Mark Van Doren Medal of Columbia University and the Columbia University Great Teacher Award. He was president of the American Chemical Society in 1996.

About the AIC Gold Medal

First awarded by the American Institute of Chemists (AIC) in 1926, and jointly awarded with CHF since 2003, the Gold Medal is the AIC’s highest award. It recognizes service to the science of chemistry and to the profession of chemist or chemical engineer in the United States. Previous winners include 11 Nobel laureates as well as other renowned researchers and engineers representing many facets of the world of chemistry. Medalists include Alfred Bader, Arnold O. Beckman, Paul Berg, Herbert C. Brown, F. Albert Cotton, Carl Djerassi, Walter Gilbert, Harry B. Gray, Ralph F. Hirschmann, Roald Hoffmann, Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Glenn T. Seaborg, Oliver Smithies, Max Tishler, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, and George M. Whitesides.

About the American Institute of Chemists (AIC)

Founded in 1923, the American Institute of Chemists advances the chemical sciences by establishing high professional standards of practice and emphasizing the professional, ethical, economic, and social status of its members for the benefit of society as a whole. The AIC engages in a broad range of programs for professional enhancement through the prestigious Fellow membership category, an awards program, certification programs, and meetings.

About the Chemical Heritage Foundation

The Chemical Heritage Foundation is a collections-based nonprofit organization that preserves the history and heritage of chemistry, chemical engineering, and related sciences and technologies. The collections are used to create a body of original scholarship that illuminates chemistry’s role in shaping society. In bridging science with the humanities, arts, and social sciences, CHF is committed to building a vibrant, international community of scholars; creating a rich source of traditional and emerging media; expanding the reach of our museum; and engaging the broader society through inventive public events.
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