John D. Roberts Receives 2013 American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal

April 9, 2013
Spectroscopy

John D. Roberts, Institute Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, California) received the 2013 American Institute of Chemists (AIC) Gold Medal.

John D. Roberts, Institute Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, California) received the 2013 American Institute of Chemists (AIC) Gold Medal. It was presented at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) during Heritage Day on April 4, 2013. Heritage Day is CHF’s annual celebration of achievement in the chemical and molecular sciences.

Roberts serves on the boards of directors of Organic Syntheses, Inc., and University Science Books and was a consultant to DuPont from 1950 to 2008. His research focused on the mechanisms of organic reactions, the chemistry of small-ring compounds, and applications of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to organic and bioorganic chemistry and biochemistry. His current research encompasses the application of NMR to conformational analysis and theoretical organic chemistry.

After receiving a PhD in chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1944, Roberts began his academic career as an instructor in chemistry at his alma mater. He was a National Research Council Fellowship at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts) in 1945. He then joined the staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts) in 1946 as an instructor, was promoted to assistant professor in 1947, and to associate professor in 1950. In 1953 Roberts became a professor of organic chemistry at the California Institute of Technology; in 1972 he was appointed Institute Professor of Chemistry and in 1988 Institute Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, and Lecturer. From 1980 to 1983 he served Caltech as vice president, provost, and dean of the faculty.

Roberts’ numerous awards include the American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry (1954), the Priestley Medal (1987), the National Medal of Science (1990), the Glenn T. Seaborg Medal (1991), the Chemical Pioneer Award of the American Institute of Chemists and the Arthur C. Cope Award of the American Chemical Society (both in 1994), and the National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences (1999). In 1998 he was named by Chemical & Engineering News as one of the 75 most influential chemists in the last 75 years. In 2008 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and in 2009 Fellow of the American Chemical Society. He is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences.

First awarded by the 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 eleven 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, 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, Elizabeth H. Blackburn and George M. Whitesides.