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John D. Roberts Wins ACS's Highest Award in Chemistry

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Abstract

John D. Roberts, Institute Professor of Chemistry at California Institute of Technology, has been named 1987 recipient of the Priestley Medal for his contributions to chemistry. The Priestley Medal is the American Chemical Society's highest honor. Roberts is probably best known for his work with nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. In the mid-1950s, he was one of the first to recognize NMR's potential and was a central figure in developing proton NMR into one of organic chemistry's most powerful tools. Subsequently, he investigated nuclei other than hydrogen and was instrumental in developing fluorine-19, carbon-13, and nitrogen-15 NMR spectroscopies. Before his work with NMR, Roberts distinguished himself with his applications of molecular orbital calculations and mechanistic studies of small-ring re-arrangements and nucleophilic aromatic substitutions. A colleague of Roberts describes him as a chemist who combines a keen scientific intuition about promising areas of research with a genius for exploiting new experimental techniques and spectroscopic tools. The ...

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In honor of the 97th birthday of Professor John D. Roberts, the author has assembled a collection of poignant quotes and anecdotes, mostly written by Roberts himself, which embody his philosophies of life and his wide-ranging experiences and interests. A brief summary of Roberts’s major scientific accomplishments is also presented.
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