John D. Roberts (1918 – 2016)

  • Author: ChemViews (Photo: Ⓒ Chemical Heritage Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0)
  • Published Date: 03 November 2016
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
thumbnail image: John D. Roberts (1918 – 2016)

Professor Emeritus John D. Roberts, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, CA, USA, passed away on October 29, 2016.

Roberts made many important contributions to physical organic chemistry, working on reaction mechanisms and intermediates as well as spectroscopy. He pioneered the use of NMR spectroscopy in organic chemistry and discovered the existence of benzyne, a short-lived triple-bonded benzene derivative.

John D. Roberts studied chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), USA, where he received his Ph.D. in 1944. He held positions at UCLA in 1944–1945, at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, in 1945–1946, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA, from 1946 to 1952. Roberts became Professor of Organic Chemistry at Caltech in 1953, Institute Professor of Chemistry in 1972, and remained at Caltech until his retirement in 1988.

Among many other honors, Roberts received the Priestley Medal from the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 1987, the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1990, the Arthur C. Cope Award from the ACS in 1994, and several honorary doctorates. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), a Fellow of the ACS, and a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Selected Publications

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