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Robert S. Mulliken

Robert S. MullikenAKA Robert Sanderson Mulliken

Born: 7-Jun-1896
Birthplace: Newburyport, MA
Died: 31-Oct-1986
Location of death: Arlington, VA
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Religion: Agnostic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist, Physicist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Molecular orbital theory

Military service: US Army (Chemical Warfare Service, WWI)

American chemist and physicist Robert S. Mulliken used quantum mechanics to help explain the behavior of electron orbits as atoms merge to become molecules. His father taught organic chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he studied under Robert A. Millikan at the University of Chicago. Friends and colleagues called him "Mr. Molecule", and for his research on chemical bonds and unraveling the electronic structure of molecules, he won the 1966 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Beginning in 1922 he pioneered isotope separation by evaporative centrifuging. In 1925 he proposed that there are two types of multiplicity in the band spectra of diatomic molecules. In 1927, with Friedrich Hund, he proposed the Hund-Mulliken method, which describes electrons through mathematical functions delocalized over an entire molecule and which has since been expanded as the molecular orbital theory. In 1934 he proposed the Mulliken scale, which calculates average ionization potential and electron affinity. During the First World War he worked under James B. Conant with the National Defense Research Committee and for the US Army's Chemical Warfare Service, designing and manufacturing toxic gasses. During the Second World War he conducted plutonium research at the University of Chicago, as part of the then-secret Manhattan Project to build atomic weapons.

As computers came onto the scientific scene in the 1940s, he was always enthusiastic about the ways such machines could help science speed its advance. By the 1950s he was using computers to help in his calculations and in 1970, at the age of 74, he spent the summer working at IBM's laboratory in San Jose, where he learned to write computer programs. In 1986, his last year of life, he was among 74 living Nobel laureates who filed a "friend of the court" brief urging the US Supreme Court to strike down a Louisiana law requiring schools to teach "creation science" alongside the actual science of evolution.

Father: Samuel Parsons Mulliken (organic chemist, b. Dec-1864, d. 1934)
Mother: Katherine Wilmarth Mulliken (b. 1864)
Wife: Mary Helen von Noè (professor of geology, m. 24-Dec-1929, two daughters)
Daughter: Lucia Maria Mulliken Heard
Daughter: Valerie Noè Mulliken

    High School: Newburyport High School, Newburyport, MA (1913)
    University: BS Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1917)
    University: PhD Physical Chemistry, University of Chicago (1921)
    Teacher: Physics, New York University (1926-1928)
    Teacher: Physics, University of Chicago (1928-31)
    Professor: Physics, University of Chicago (1931-61)
    Fellow: Oxford University (1952-53)
    Professor: Burton Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago (1956-61)
    Professor: Physics and Chemistry, University of Chicago (1961-85)
    Professor: Chemical Physics, Florida State University (1964-81)

    National Research Council Fellowship, 1921-25
    Guggenheim Fellowship 1930
    Guggenheim Fellowship 1932-33
    Fulbright 1952-54
    Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry 1963
    ACS Willard Gibbs Medal 1965
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1966
    Priestley Medal 1983
    Manhattan Project University of Chicago, 1942-45
    New Jersey Zinc Company Research, 1919
    US Interior Department Bureau of Mines, Junior Chemical Engineer, 1917-18
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    American Chemical Society
    American Philosophical Society
    American Physical Society
    Cosmos Club
    French Chemical Society Foreign Member
    Indian Academy of Sciences Foreign Fellow
    International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science
    National Academy of Sciences 1936
    Royal Society Foreign Member
    Royal Society of Chemistry Foreign Member
    English Ancestry Paternal

Author of books:
Molecular Complexes: A Lecture and Reprint Volume (1969)
Selected Papers of Robert S. Mulliken (1975)
Diatomic Molecules: Results of ab Initio Calculations (1977)
Polyatomic Molecules: Results of ab Initio Calculations (1981)


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