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Rudolph Pariser Papers

  • 1951–1966, 1987–1994
  • Born in China (became U.S. citizen in 1944)
    Created and used by Rudolph Pariser
  • 4.5 linear feet
    Papers, photographs
  • Gift of Rudolph Pariser
  • 2002:01
  • Copyright restrictions may apply (contact CHF archivist).


Includes correspondence, reports, and memos related to the Pariser-Parr-Pople method for predicting electron configurations.

Background note

Rudolph Pariser received his B.S. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1944 and subsequently attended the University of Minnesota, where he received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1950. Shortly after graduating he began work as a research chemist for DuPont’s Jackson Laboratory. One of Pariser’s first tasks at DuPont was to characterize several of the organic dyes the company was synthesizing for its new synthetic fibers. Pariser felt the best way to understand these dyes was to study their structure and property relationships, and he believed quantum chemistry to be the best way to begin.

In July 1951 Pariser consulted with Robert Parr, a fellow University of Minnesota alum, regarding the application of quantum calculations to determine the electronic spectra of complex dyes. It was during this meeting that a historic collaboration began. After much research and experimentation Pariser and Parr had developed a “semi-empirical theory . . . designed for the correlation and prediction of the wavelengths and intensities . . . of complex unsaturated molecules.” Their theory became known as the Pariser-Parr-Pople (PPP) method. (Theoretical chemist John Pople was simultaneously performing studies parallel to those of Pariser and Parr.)

Pariser and Parr first presented their findings on June 9, 1952, at the Symposium on Molecular Structure and Spectroscopy. Their work was well received by the chemical community. Later that year the collaborators wrote a two-paper series: “A Semi-Empirical Theory of the Electronic Spectra and Electronic Structure of Complex Unsaturated Molecules,” which further outlined their method. These papers, first published by the Journal of Chemical Physics in 1953, became two of the most heavily cited publications in chemistry and physics, a testament to the method’s widespread applicability. Indeed, the PPP method provides the foundation on which many chemical calculations are based.

After a few initial applications of the PPP method to complex molecules, Pariser turned his attention to polymer science. He was named research supervisor of DuPont’s polymer division in 1954, and by 1974 he had been named director of pioneering research, Elastomer Chemicals Department. In this role he oversaw the development of many new elastomer products. In 1980 Pariser was appointed research director of the Polymer Products Department. Pariser finally ended his long career with DuPont in 1989. When he retired, his title was director for advanced materials science for the Central Research and Development Department. However, even after his retirement Pariser remained active as a consultant in his areas of expertise and as president of Pariser & Co.

Pariser is a member of numerous professional associations, including the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, and the National Science Foundation.

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