Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture

George Whitesides

George Whitesides

2014 Lecturer: George Whitesides

On November 12, 2014, George Whitesides, the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard University, delivered the 25th annual Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. The lecture was entitled “Soft Robots.”

Organic chemistry, materials science, and robotics come together in the development of soft robots. In this talk legendary scientist George Whitesides described increasingly elastic robot systems that bridge the gap between man-made machines and their biological counterparts. Whitesides’s Research Group at Harvard University has created robots modeled on organisms without internal skeletons, such as worms, squids, and starfish. Various robots designed by the Whitesides group can squeeze through a mouse hole or jump 30 times their body height—and interact safely with humans, making them potentially powerful tools for disaster-relief or search-and-rescue missions.

About the Speaker

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’s 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 AB from Harvard and a PhD from the California Institute of Technology.

About the Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture

The Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture was established in 1990 to emphasize to the general public the positive role that the chemical and molecular sciences play in our lives. Ullyot lectures are held annually and are open to the public. Ullyot lecturers are distinguished in their fields, nationally recognized, and able to communicate to a nonscientific audience.

The Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture is jointly sponsored by the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of the Sciences, and the Philadelphia Section and Delaware Section of the American Chemical Society.

About Glenn Edgar Ullyot

Glenn Edgar Ullyot earned a BS in chemistry from the University of Minnesota and an MS and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois. During a successful 38-year career with SmithKline & French Laboratories (now GlaxoSmithKline), Ullyot progressed through several stages of responsibility, from bench chemist to director of scientific liaison.

Ullyot’s primary scientific interests were with medicinal chemistry, therapeutic agents, and their biological activity. He published many papers, received patents on numerous compounds, and played a significant role in the development of several products, including Benzidrex, a nonstimulating analog of the inhaler Benzidrine, and Diazide, a diuretic agent for the treatment of high blood pressure.

Ullyot was an active member of and leader in the American Chemical Society for more than 60 years and served on several important U.S. governmental committees. Owing to his deep commitment to education, he established the Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture, stating, “Chemistry, biology, and physics are the basic sciences that are keys to understanding the world around us. It is my hope that each Ullyot lecturer will increasingly stimulate more people to appreciate the positive impact these sciences and the people who pursue them have on our daily lives.”

Ullyot lecturers are distinguished in their fields, nationally recognized, and able to communicate to a wide audience.

Past Ullyot Lecturers:

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Past Ullyot Lectures

Click here to find past Ullyot Public Affairs Lecturers and their topics.

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