Past Winners of the Othmer Gold Medal
2006 Othmer Gold Medalist Ron Breslow congratulates Yuan Lee at Heritage Day 2008.
2013 | Harry Gray
Harry Gray is the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and the founding director of the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology. After completing graduate work at Northwestern University and postdoctoral research at the University of Copenhagen, Gray joined the chemistry faculty at Columbia University, where in the early 1960s he developed ligand field theory to interpret the electronic structures and reactions of metal complexes. After moving to Caltech in 1966 he began work in biological inorganic chemistry and photochemistry that led to the development of molecular systems for the storage of solar energy, and in 1982 he demonstrated that electrons can tunnel rapidly over long molecular distances through metalloproteins. In the 1990s he and J. R. Winkler developed laser flash-quench methods that opened the way for experimental investigations that have led to a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of electron flow through proteins that function in respiration and photosynthesis.
Gray has published over 800 research papers and 18 books. He has received the National Medal of Science from President Ronald Reagan (1986); the Pauling Medal (1986); the American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal (1990); the Linderstrøm-Lang Prize (1992); the Gibbs Medal (1992); the Harvey Prize (2000); the National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences (2003); the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry (2004); the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (2004); the City of Florence Prize in Molecular Sciences (2006); the Welch Award in Chemistry (2009); the Japan Coordination Chemistry Award (2010); 6 national awards from the American Chemical Society, including the Priestley Medal (1991); and 17 honorary doctorates, including ones from Rochester, Northwestern, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Columbia, Toulouse, Florence, Copenhagen, and Edinburgh universities. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, and a foreign member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of Great Britain, and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. He has been a member of the board of directors of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation since 1994.
2012 | Marye Anne Fox
Marye Anne Fox was named the seventh chancellor of the University of California, San Diego, in April 2004. She also holds the title of distinguished professor of chemistry and has received honorary degrees from 12 institutions in the United States and abroad. In October 2010 President Barack Obama awarded Fox the National Medal of Science, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists, engineers, and inventors.
Previously Fox was chancellor and distinguished professor of chemistry at North Carolina State University, a post she had held since 1998. Before going to North Carolina, Fox spent 22 years at the University of Texas, where she held the Waggoner Regents Chair in Chemistry.
Fox is one of the nation’s most creative physical organic chemists, having published extensively in the fields of organic photochemistry and electrochemistry. Her work has clear application in materials science, solar-energy conversion, and environmental chemistry. She has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society and to fellowships in both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. From the American Chemical Society she has received the Garvan Award, the Southwest Regional Award, and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award. She has been a Sloan Research Fellow and a Dreyfus Teacher Scholar, and was named by the New York Academy of Sciences in 1999 as an Outstanding Woman in Science.
In 1996, she won Sigma Xi’s Monie A. Ferst Award in recognition of outstanding mentoring of graduate students. So far, 27 doctoral and 15 masters’ degrees have been awarded under her guidance. At the national level she is a frequent lecturer on science education policy and reform.
Fox currently serves on many boards, including those of the Council on Competitiveness, the Association of American Universities, the World Universities Network, and the Robert A. Welch Foundation Scientific Advisory Board. She has served on 14 editorial boards, including a stint as associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. She is the recipient of the Charles Lathrop Parson Award for 2005 from the American Chemical Society in recognition of outstanding public service.
Fox received a B.S. from Notre Dame College and a Ph.D. from Dartmouth College, both in chemistry.
2011 | Kazuo Inamori
Born in 1932 in Kagoshima, Japan, Kazuo Inamori earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Kagoshima University in 1955. Soon after graduation he developed a fosterite ceramic that had high-frequency insulation characteristics needed for television tubes. He successfully synthesized the material and then devised a system for mass producing this product, using an electric tunnel kiln he developed.
He established Kyoto Ceramics Co., Ltd (later renamed Kyocera Corporation) in 1959. There he developed a layered ceramics package to protect integrated circuits. The success of this product led to orders from semiconductor companies, including Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel, Texas Instruments, Motorola, and National Semiconductor.
In 1966 he was appointed president of Kyocera. In 1984 he founded the telecommunications firm DDI Corporation and was appointed chairman of its board. In 1985 he became chairman of the Board of Kyocera. In 1997 he resigned from these chairmanships to become founder and chairman emeritus of both Kyocera and DDI.
His philanthropic work in both America and Japan includes the establishment, in 1984, of the Inamori Foundation, which awards the Kyoto Prize.
In 2009, at 78 years old, and after devoting more than a decade to philanthropic work, Inamori returned to the world of business as chairman of Japan Air Lines (JAL). At that time, the troubled global carrier was the biggest bankruptcy in the history of Japan, but under Inamori’s leadership, it has made important strides toward stability. Inamori’s bold strategy for the company included changing the culture of the airline, beginning with training for top management in his own highly regarded “amoeba” management style, which was so successful at Kyocera.
In addition to his success in business, he has received awards, honorary degrees, and other honors in eight countries on four continents (the United States, Canada, Brazil, Paraguay, the United Kingdom, Sweden, China, and Japan).
2010 | George Whitesides
George Whitesides is the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard University. He was a member of the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1963 to 1982. He joined the Department of Chemistry at Harvard in 1982 and served as department chairman from 1986 to 1989. From 1982 to 2004, Whitesides was the Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry at Harvard.
Best known for his work in areas including nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, organometallic chemistry, molecular self-assembly, and nanotechnology, Whitesides’ current research interests include physical and organic chemistry, materials science, biophysics, complexity, and the origin of life. According to Whitesides, the primary objective of his work is to fundamentally change the paradigm of science.
Whitesides is active in numerous public service roles. He has served on advisory committees for the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the U.S. Department of Defense. He has also served on the National Research Council in various capacities since 1984, including roles with the Committee on Science and Technology for Counter Terrorism and the Committee on Nanotechnology for the Intelligence Community.
Author of more than 950 scientific articles, Whitesides is also listed as an inventor on more than 50 patents. Thomson ISI ranked Whitesides fifth on the 1,000 most-cited chemists from 1981 to 1997. Among many awards and honors, he received the National Medal of Science in 1998, the Kyoto Prize in Materials Science and Engineering in 2003, and the Welch Award in Chemistry in 2005. Whitesides is the 2007 American Chemical Society Priestley Medal recipient.
Whitesides is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering. He is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received an A.B. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology.
2009 | Ahmed Zewail
A pioneer in chemical physics, Ahmed Zewail created the new field of femtochemistry, the study of matter on the femtosecond (10-15 second) timescale, which makes it possible to observe atoms in motion and the transition states of chemical transformations. The primary goal of his research since winning the Nobel Prize has been in the development of the field of four-dimensional (4D) Electron Microscopy for space-time visualization of materials and biological functions. Zewail is also devoted to enhancing public awareness of the value of fundamental research and helping populations in developing nations through the promotion of science and technology. He is the third Egyptian-born recipient of the Nobel prize, and the first to receive a Nobel in science.
Zewail completed his early education in Egypt and received B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry from Alexandria University. He obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1976 he joined the faculty at the California Institute of Technology, where he is now the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry, professor of physics, and director of the Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology.
In the late 1980s, Zewail developed a method for viewing the motion of atoms and molecules based on new laser technology that produced light flashes just tens of femtoseconds in duration. Many had thought it impossible to study the events that constitute a chemical reaction, but Zewail’s discovery enabled scientists to gain more insight into and control over a reaction’s outcome. For his studies using femtosecond spectroscopy, Zewail received the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Zewail has received numerous other awards and honors, including the Albert Einstein World Award of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, the Robert A. Welch Award, the Leonardo da Vinci Award, the Wolf Prize, the King Faisal Prize, and the Order of the Grand Collar of the Nile. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; the American Philosophical Society; the American Academy of Achievement; the European Academy of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities; the Royal Society of London; the French Academy; the Russian Academy; the Pontifical Academy; and the Royal Swedish Academy of the Sciences. He has received honorary degrees from 33 universities around the world.
2008 | Yuan Tseh Lee
Yuan Tseh Lee was born in Hsinchu, Taiwan, and received his B.S. from the National Taiwan University. After finishing his M.S. degree at Tsinghua University, he obtained a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1965 he began his research on reactive scattering experiments in ion-molecule reaction as a postdoctoral fellow.
In 1967 Lee accepted a research fellowship at Harvard University and then became an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, where he rapidly made his laboratory the North American capital of molecular beam study. Lee returned to Berkeley as a full professor in 1974 and began to study reaction dynamics, investigations of various primary photochemical processes, and the spectroscopy of ionic and molecular clusters. In 1994 he retired as professor and principal investigator for the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory to become president of Academia Sinica in Taiwan. In 2006 he became president emeritus and distinguished research fellow at the same institution.
Lee has received numerous awards and honors, including the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the U.S. National Medal of Science, Faraday Medal and Prize from the Royal Chemical Society of Great Britain, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Medal from the Indian National Science Academy. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a foreign member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Göttingen Academy of Sciences, Indian Academy of Sciences, Korean Academy of Science and Technology, and Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. He is also a member of the Academia Sinica in Taiwan and the Third World Academy of Sciences. He has received honorary degrees from 34 universities around the world.
2007 | Thomas R. Cech
In 1982 Thomas R. Cech and his research group announced that an RNA molecule from tetrahymena, a single-celled pond organism, cut and rejoined chemical bonds in the complete absence of proteins. Thus, RNA was not restricted to being a passive carrier of genetic information but could have an active role in cellular metabolism.
This discovery of self-splicing RNA provided the first exception to the long-held belief that biological reactions are always catalyzed by proteins. In addition, it has been heralded as providing a new, plausible scenario for the origin of life; because RNA can be both an information-carrying molecule and a catalyst, perhaps the first self-reproducing system consisted of RNA alone. Only a few years later it was recognized that RNA catalysts, or ribozymes, might provide a new class of highly specific pharmaceutical agents, able to cleave and thereby inactivate viral RNAs or other RNAs involved in disease.
Cech earned a B.A. in chemistry from Grinnell College and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1978 he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in 1988 and distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry in 1990. Cech became president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2000.
2006 | Ronald Breslow
Ronald Breslow earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University, working with R. B. Woodward. He spent a year working with Lord Todd as a postdoctoral in Cambridge, England, before coming to Columbia University, where he is celebrating his 50th anniversary as a faculty member. He is currently a professor of chemistry, one of 12 University Professors, and former chairman of the department. He has received Columbia University's Great Teacher Award and the Mark Van Doren Medal. He also serves on the editorial board of a number of scientific journals and has held over 200 lectureships and visiting professorships.
Breslow is renowned for his wide range of research and is the central architect of two major areas of research: biomimetic systems and nonbenzenoid aromatic chemistry. He was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1966 and holds the National Medal of Science. In addition to numerous other honors and awards, including receiving the Priestley Medal, Breslow was named one of the top 75 contributors to the chemical enterprise in the past 75 years.
2005 | James D. Watson
In 1953 James D. Watson and his colleague Francis Crick successfully proposed the double-helical structure for DNA, a feat considered by many to be the greatest achievement of science in the 20th century. For this work, Watson and Crick, together with Maurice Wilkins, were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Watson was a driving force behind setting up the Human Genome Project, a major factor in his receipt of the 1993 Copley Medal from the Royal Society. All through his career, he has found time to share his insights, writing important texts for those in the sciences and also popular works, some of them best sellers, that describe his life and work for those with no technical background.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1928, Watson received a B.S. in 1947 from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in 1950 from Indiana University; both degrees were in zoology. Following a National Research Fellowship in Copenhagen and a National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis Fellowship at the University of Cambridge, England, he spent two years at the California Institute of Technology. He joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1955 and became professor in 1961, moving in 1976 to New York to become full-time director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In 1988 he was appointed associate director for human genome research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and in 1989 he was appointed director of the NIH's National Center for Human Genome Research. In 1992 Watson returned to Cold Spring Harbor, after successfully launching a worldwide effort to map and sequence the human genome.
In 1977 Watson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also holds the National Medal of Science, the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society. Queen Elizabeth II has proclaimed him an honorary knight of the British Empire.
2004 | Jon M. Huntsman
Jon M. Huntsman, noted entrepreneur and philanthropist, built Huntsman Corporation into a multibillion-dollar global business with leading positions in the chemical, plastics, and packaging industries. A founding director of the American Plastics Council, he has worked to increase public understanding of and competitiveness of America's chemical industry. He has also dedicated himself to supporting cancer research, famine relief, higher education, and care of the homeless by establishing such institutions as the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education, and the Huntsman World Senior Games. His numerous awards include Armenia's Medal of Honor, the National Caring Award, and the Kavaler Award for Chief Executive Excellence.
A graduate of the the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Huntsman later received an MBA from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. In the early 1970s President Nixon appointed him to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and he served as Nixon's special assistant and staff secretary. He was Utah's Republican Party national committeeman from 1976 to 1980, and in 1977 he was chairman of the Western States Republican Leaders. He served as vice chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is the current chairman of the board of overseers of the Wharton School and vice chairman of the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.
2003 | John D. Baldeschwieler (co-recipient)
John Baldeschwieler is J. Stanley Johnson Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 25 years. Baldeschwieler pioneered the use of nuclear magnetic resonance, ion cyclotron resonance, and other techniques that have yielded important insights into problems in chemistry and biology. He invented analytical techniques that led to profound advances in fundamental research and provided critical input in the design of security detection equipment now in every airport in the nation. In addition to his academic activities, he has founded and directed three successful pharmaceutical companies: Vestar, NeXstar Pharmaceuticals, and Combion.
He is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves on a large number of national scientific and advisory committees. He has received the American Chemical Society awards for both pure chemistry and creative invention, and was honored by President Clinton in 2000 with the National Medal of Science.
Baldeschwieler has served in government for more than 30 years, working on national security and health issues. He served as the deputy director of the Office of Science and Technology in the White House during the Nixon administration. Currently, he is a managing member of the Athenaeum Fund and a director of the Huntington Medical Research Institutes, Pasadena Entretec, and several privately held companies.
2003 | George S. Hammond (co-recipient)
George Hammond is widely credited with creating the discipline of organic photochemistry, which laid the groundwork for the photochemical production of immensely complex computer chips. Students of chemistry around the world know him as the formulator of the Hammond postulate and as coauthor of a popular organic chemistry text used by a generation of aspiring chemists. After three decades in academe, Hammond led research and development at Allied Signal for nearly a decade.
Currently a Distinguished Adjunct Professor at Bowling Green State University, Georgetown University, and Portland State University, Hammond began his academic career at Iowa State College (now University), moving to the California Institute of Technology in 1958. At Caltech he worked on the mechanisms of free radical and ionic reactions, and he brought into full fruition a program in photochemistry that he had begun in Iowa. Between 1960 and 1963, he published the work that led to the creation of organic photochemistry as an academic discipline.
In 1972 he moved to the University of California at Santa Cruz as professor of chemistry and vice chancellor of natural science. In 1974 he became foreign secretary of the National Academy of Sciences but retained his professorial position and continued his research program. Hammond left the academic world in 1978 for Allied Chemical Corporation (now Honeywell). His final position at Allied was as executive director for metals, ceramics, and bioscience research. He retired in 1988 but has continued a successful career in both academic and industrial consulting. Hammond is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of the Priestley Medal and the National Medal of Science.
2002 | Robert S. Langer
Since joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty in 1977, Robert S. Langer has specialized in controlled drug delivery and tissue engineering. Much of his research has been in biomedical applications of polymers, and his groundbreaking studies dispelled the belief that only some sizes of molecules could be delivered slowly. Langer's research has led to the development of a number of novel biodegradable polymers with medical applications. One of these resulted in a drug-delivery system for the treatment of brain cancer (developed with Henry Brem of Johns Hopkins University Medical School), the first FDA-approved treatment for brain cancer in 20 years and the first polymer-based treatment to deliver chemotherapy directly to a tumor site. This treatment has extended the lives of numerous patients and has far fewer side effects than conventional chemotherapy. Langer is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. He has received over 80 major awards, including the Lemelson-MIT prize for inventions in medicine. Both Forbes Magazine and BioWorld have named Langer one of the 25 most important individuals in biotechnology in the world. Read more about Robert S. Langer here.
2001 | Gordon E. Moore
Gordon E. Moore, cofounder and chairman emeritus of Intel Corporation, is a principal architect of our modern world. He has applied the principles of chemistry on the micro level to create the modern semiconductor industry. The technologies of the integrated circuit and the microprocessor display his multiple talents and chemical genius, while "Moore's Law" is the metric of our age. As research scientist, innovator, gifted entrepreneur, business leader, and statesman, Moore has played seminal roles in the semiconductor world and on a wider stage. Moore has received numerous awards and honors, including the National Academy of Engineering's Founders Award and the 1990 National Medal of Technology. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the California Institute of Technology. Moore is heavily involved with Conservation International, where he is chairman of the executive committee, and has established the Gordon E. and Betty I. Moore Foundation to fund scientific, environmental, and educational ventures.
2000 | Arnold O. Beckman, Special Millennium Edition
In 1934 Arnold Beckman began one of the earliest “high-tech in a garage” startups, creating the first in a series of path-breaking scientific instruments, the pH meter. His firm's contributions to such secret World War II efforts as radar and the Manhattan Project include the DU and 1R-1 spectrophotometers, the Helipot, the dosimeter, and the oxygen analyzer. As head of Beckman Instruments he played a seminal role in the beginnings of Silicon Valley, and he led the effort to understand and deal with Los Angeles smog. Other later achievements include pioneering new technologies for the life sciences and contributing to national politics and to California civic life. At an age when most people retire, Arnold Beckman began a new career, seeking to give his substantial personal fortune to science. His thoughtful investments in basic research and interdisciplinary endeavors form a living legacy of excellence in the work of the various Beckman Institutes and Centers, and of a multitude of investigators and educators.
The Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry at CHF was created with the generous support of Arnold and Mabel Beckman.
2000 | Carl Djerassi
Carl Djerassi is one of the few American scientists to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science (for the first synthesis of a steroid oral contraceptive—"the pill") and the National Medal of Technology (for promoting new approaches to insect control). A member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as many foreign academies, he has received 18 honorary doctorates and numerous other honors. Dr. Djerassi also writes fiction, mostly in the genre of "science-in-fiction," to illustrate the human side of scientists and the personal conflicts faced by scientists in their quest for scientific knowledge, personal recognition, and financial rewards. He has produced five novels, numerous short stories, and an autobiography. He has also embarked on a trilogy of "science-in-theatre" plays.
1999 | P. Roy Vagelos
P. Roy Vagelos is internationally recognized as a visionary leader in drug discovery and development, innovator in pharmaceutical research, highly successful business executive, and great humanitarian. His distinguished career began at the National Institutes of Health; he has served as chairman and CEO of Merck & Company, chairman of the board of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and chairman of the University of Pennsylvania's Board of Trustees. Discoverer of the acyl-carrier protein and author of more than 100 scientific papers, his many awards and honors include the National Academy of Science’s Chemistry in Service to Society Award and induction into the National Business Hall of Fame in 1995. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and recipient of its Chemistry in Service to Society Award, and also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
1998 | Mary Lowe Good
Mary Lowe Good is nationally recognized as a scientist, teacher, technology manager, and public servant, and for her efforts to foster creative interaction between academia, government, and chemical industry. She spent 25 years at Louisiana State University as a teacher and researcher in physical-inorganic chemistry. She spent nearly 14 years in top positions in industrial research management at UOP, Signal Research, and later AlliedSignal, during which time she helped develop processes to remedy hazardous waste streams using hydroprocessing. Good was a public advocate for science and technology throughout Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations, serving on the National Science Board (1980, 1986; chair, 1988–1991), the presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and as Undersecretary for Technology in the Department of Commerce. She was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1987 and has received numerous awards, including the American Chemical Society Priestley Medal; the National Science Foundation Distinguished Public Service Award; and the American Institute of Chemists’ Gold Medal.
1997 | Ralph Landau
Ralph Landau, the first recipient of the Othmer Gold Medal, is consulting professor of economics at Stanford University and research fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. He was cofounder and CEO of the Halcon/Scientific Design Group and cofounder of the Oxirane Company. Landau holds major patents in organic oxidation chemistry, has authored about 150 publications, including seven books, and has championed innovation and industrial entrepreneurship worldwide. His numerous honors include the Petroleum and Petrochemical Division Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChE), the Chemical Industry Medal, the Winthrop-Sears Medal of the Chemical Industry Association, the Perkin Medal and the Pioneers Award of the American Institute of Chemists, the Founder’s Award of the AIChE, and the Founder’s Award of the National Academy of Engineering. In 1983 he was recognized as one of 30 "Eminent Chemical Engineers" by the AIChE; he has received the National Medal of Technology from President Reagan and the John Fritz Medal and Certificate from the United Engineering Trustees, Inc. Read more about Ralph Landau here.