AIC Gold Medal

Ronald Breslow

Ronald Breslow.

2014 Medalist: Ronald Breslow

Ronald Breslow, professor of chemistry and biology at Columbia University, received the 2014 AIC Gold Medal at Heritage Day on May 15, 2014.

Breslow is one of 12 University Professors at Columbia and a former chairman of the chemistry department. His research includes synthesis of 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. Other research involved use of the hydrophobic effect in organic synthesis and in mechanistic chemistry. Recently Breslow 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.

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.

Breslow 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, an honorary member of the Chemical Society of Japan, and an honorary professor of the University of Science and Technology of China. 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. Breslow 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 and Engineering News. He has 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, the Willard Gibbs Award; and in 2006, the Othmer Gold Medal and the Paul Gassman Medal. In 2007 he was honored with 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.

In the area of education Breslow has received the Mark Van Doren Medal of Columbia University and the Columbia University Great Teacher Award. He served as president of the American Chemical Society in 1996.

Ronald Breslow has an A.B. in chemistry, an M.A. in medical science, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University, where he worked with R. B.Woodward. He also spent a year in Cambridge, England, as a postdoctoral fellow working with Lord Alexander R. Todd before accepting a position at Columbia University. 

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 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, Elizabeth Blackburn, 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, and George M. Whitesides.

About the American Institute of Chemists (AIC)

The AIC is a professional organization dedicated to fostering the advancement of the chemical profession in the United States.

Past Medalists

Learn more about the past winners of the AIC Gold Medal.

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