Robert Burns Woodward Essay Research Paper Biography

Robert Burns Woodward Essay, Research Paper

Biography of Robert Burns Woodward

Robert Burns Woodward was born in Boston on April 10th, 1917, the only child

of Margaret and Arthur Woodward, of English antecedents. Robert’s father Arthur died in

October of 1918, at an early age of only thirty-three years old.

Robert Woodward was attracted to chemistry at a very early age, and indulged his

taste for the science in private activities throughout the period of his primary and

secondary education in the public schools of Quincy, a suburb of Boston. In 1933, he

entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which they excluded him because

of inattention to formal studies at the end of the Fall term in 1934. The Institute

authorities generously allowed him to re-enroll in the Fall term of 1935, and he took the

degrees of Bachelor of Science in 1936 and Doctor of Philosophy in 1937. Since that time

he has been associated with Harvard University, as Postdoctoral Fellow (1937-1938),

Member of the Society of Fellows (1938-1940), Instructor in Chemistry (1941-1944),

Assistant Professor (1944-1946), Associate Professor (1946-1950), Professor (1950-

1953), Morris Loeb Professor of Chemistry (1953-1960), and Donner Professor of

Science since 1960. After all of these things that he did, it’s no wonder why he was on his

way to a Nobel prize in the near future. In 1963 he assumed direction of the Woodward

Research Institute at Basel. In 1965 was when he recieved his Nobel prize for his

outstanding achievments in organic synthesis. His studies brought knowledge to the world

and opened doors for later scientists that were in his field of organic synthesis. He was a

member of the Corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1966-1971),

and he was a Member of the Board of Governors of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Robert Woodward has been very fortunate, (which was a little unusual), in the

outstanding personal qualities and scientific capabilities of a large proportion of his more

than two hundred and fifty collaborators in Cambridge, and latterly in Basel, of whom

more than half have assumed academic positions. He has also on numerous occasions

enjoyed exceptionally stimulating and fruitful collaboration with fellow-scientists in

laboratories other than his own. His interests in chemistry are wide, but the main arena of

his first-hand engagement has been the investigation of natural products, or organic

chemistry — a domain he regards as “endlessly fascinating in itself,” and one which

presents unlimited and unparalleled opportunities for the discovery, testing, development

and refinement of general principles.

Professor Woodward holds more than twenty honorary degrees of which only a

few I listed here: D.Sc. Wesleyan University, 1945; D. Sc. Harvard University, 1957; D.

Sc. University of Cambridge (England), 1964; D. Sc. Brandeis University, 1965; D. Sc.

Israel Institute of Technology (Haifa), 1966; D.Sc. University of Western Ontario

(Canada), 1968;D.Sc. University de Louvain (Belgium), 1970.

Some of the awards presented to him I listed here: John Scott Medal (Franklin

Institute and City of Philadelphia), 1945; Backeland Medal (North Jersey Section of the

American Chemical Society), 1955; Davy Medal (Royal Society), 1959; Roger Adams

Medal (American Chemical Society), 1961; Pius XI Gold Medal (Pontifical Academy of

Sciences), 1969; National Medal of Science (United States of America), 1964; Willard

Gibbs Medal (Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society), 1967; Lavoisier Medal

(Society Chimique de France), 1968; The Order of the Rising Sun, Second Class (His

Majesty the Emperor of Japan), 1970; Hanbury Memorial Medal (The Pharmaceutical

Society of Great Britain), 1970; Pierre Brnylants Medal (University de Louvain), 1970.

Robert Woodward is a member of the National Academy of Sciences; Fellow of

the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Honorary Member of the German Chemical

Society; Honorary Fellow of The Chemical Society; Foreign Member of the Royal

Society; Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy; Corresponding Member of the

Austrian Academy of Sciences; Member of the American Philosophical Society; Honorary

Member of the Belgian Chemical Society; Honorary Fellow of the Indian Academy of

Sciences; Honorary Member of the Swiss Chemical Society; Member of the Deutsche

Academe der Naturforscher (Leopoldina); Foreign Member of the Academia Nazionale

dei Lincei; Honorary Fellow of the Weizmann Institute of Science; Honorary Member of

the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan.

Robert Woodward’s marriages include Irja Pullman in 1938, who he later divorced,

and then married Eudoxia Muller in 1946. He has three daughters: Siiri Anne (b. 1939),

Jean Kirsten (b. 1944), and Crystal Elisabeth (b. 1947), and a son, Eric Richard Arthur (b.


Organic Chemistry and the Modern Era

Organic chemistry developed extensively in the 19th cent., prompted in part by

Friedrich Wohler’s synthesis of urea (1828), which disproved the belief that only living

organisms could produce organic molecules. Other important organic chemists include

Justus von Liebig, C. A. Wurtz, and J. B. Dumas. In 1852 Edward Frankland introduced

the idea of valency (see valence), and in 1858 F. A. Kekule showed that carbon atoms are

tetravalent and are linked together in chains. Kekule’s ring structure for benzene opened

the way to modern theories of organic chemistry. Henri Louis Le Ch?telier, J. H. van’t

Hoff, and Wilhelm Ostwald pioneered the application of thermodynamics to chemistry.

Further contributions were the phase rule of J. W. Gibbs, the ionization equilibrium theory

of S. A. Arrhenius, and the heat theorem of Walther Nernst. Ernst Fischer’s work on the

amino acids marks the beginning of molecular biology.

At the end of the 19th cent., the discovery of the electron by J. J. Thomson and of

radioactivity by A. E. Becquerel revealed the close connection between chemistry and

physics. The work of Ernest Rutherford, H. G. J. Moseley, and Niels Bohr on atomic

structure (see atom) was applied to molecular structures. G. N. Lewis, Irving Langmuir,

and Linus Pauling developed the electronic theory of chemical bonds, directed valency,

and molecular orbitals (see molecular orbital theory). Transmutation of the elements, first

achieved by Rutherford, has led to the creation of elements not found in nature; in work

pioneered by Glenn Seaborg elements heavier than uranium have been produced. With the

rapid development of polymer chemistry after World War II a host of new synthetic fibers

and materials have been added to the market. A fuller understanding of the relation

between the structure of molecules and their properties has allowed chemists to tailor

predictively new materials to meet specific needs.



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