Robert H. Grubbs (1942 – 2021)

Robert H. Grubbs (1942 – 2021)

Author: ChemistryViews (Photo: The Royal Society, wikimedia commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Robert Howard Grubbs, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, USA, and 2005 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, passed away on December 19, 2021.

Professor Grubbs was well-known for his work on olefin metathesis, i.e., reactions in which C=C bonds are broken and reformed to connect alkene fragments in new ways. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2005 was awarded jointly to Yves Chauvin, Robert H. Grubbs, and Richard R. Schrock “for the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis.” Grubbs had developed the eponymous Grubbs catalysts, a series of ruthenium carbene complexes that can promote olefin metathesis. These catalysts are widely used in synthetic organic chemistry. In 1998, Grubbs co-founded the startup Materia with Mike Giardello in Pasadena, CA, USA, to make them commercially available.

Robert H. Grubbs was born on February 27, 1942, in Marshall County, KY, USA. He studied chemistry at the University of Florida, Gainesville, USA, and completed his M.S. in 1965. In 1968, he received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Columbia University, New York, USA. Grubbs then served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University, CA, USA, and joined Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA, as a faculty member in 1969. In 1975, he went to the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research in Mülheim, Germany, on a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In 1978, he moved to Caltech as Professor of Chemistry, where he last served as Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry.

In addition to the Nobel Prize and many other honors, Robert Grubbs received the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry from the Franklin Institute in 2000, the Herman F. Mark Polymer Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society (ACS)’s Division of Polymer Chemistry in 2000, the ACS Herbert C. Brown Award for Creative Research in Synthetic Methods in 2001, the Tolman Medal from the Southern California Section of the ACS in 2002, the ACS Arthur C. Cope Award in 2002, and the Paul Karrer Gold Medal from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, in 2005.

He was a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Chemical Society, and the U.S. National Academy of Inventors, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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