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Robert B. Woodward

Robert B. WoodwardAKA Robert Burns Woodward

Born: 10-Apr-1917
Birthplace: Boston, MA
Died: 8-Jul-1979
Location of death: Cambridge, MA
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Synthesized cholesterol, Vitamin B12, etc.

American chemist Robert B. Woodward performed groundbreaking work in the synthesis of organic compounds to the molecular level, combining the principles of physical chemistry with quantum mechanics. With William Doering, he completed the first complete synthesis of quinine in 1944, vital to the treatment of malaria. He finished the first complete polymerization of protein analogues in 1947, and the first total synthesis of a steroid, unraveling both cholesterol and cortisone in 1951. He synthesized lanosterol, lysergic acid, and strychnine in 1954, reserpine in 1956, chlorophyll in 1960, colchicine in 1963, cephalosporin C in 1965, and vitamin B12 in 1972. His laboratory also detailed the atomic structure of penicillin in 1945, patulin in 1950, and aureomycin and terramycin in 1952. In 1965, working with Roald Hoffmann, he introduced Woodward-Hoffmann rules, a method for exploring the electronic structure of transition states and intermediates in organic reactions.

As a child, Woodward conducted several college-level experiments with his toy chemistry set. He graduated high school at 16, but was expelled from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for "inattention to formal studies" in 1934. With sufficient apologies and a promise to try harder, he was readmitted the following fall, and earned his doctorate at MIT in 1937. He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1965, and taught and conducted research at Harvard until his death in 1979.

Father: Arthur Chester Woodward (book bindery worker, b. 24-Dec-1885, d. Oct-1918 influenza)
Mother: Margaret Burns
Wife: Irja Pullman (m. 1938, two daughters)
Daughter: Siiri Anne (b. 1939)
Daughter: Jean Kirsten (b. 1944)
Wife: Eudoxia Muller (m. 1946, one daughter, one son)
Daughter: Crystal Elisabeth (b. 1947)
Son: Eric Richard Arthur (b. 1953)

    High School: Quincy High School, Quincy, MA (1933)
    University: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (attended 1933-34; expelled)
    University: BS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1936)
    University: PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1937)
    Fellow: Harvard University (1937-41)
    Teacher: Chemistry, Harvard University (1941-50)
    Professor: Chemistry, Harvard University (1950-53)
    Professor: Morris Loeb Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University (1953-60)
    Professor: Donner Professor of Science, Harvard University (1960-79)
    Administrator: Member of the Corporation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1966-71)

    John Scott Medal 1945
    ACS Roger Adams Medal 1959
    Davy Medal 1959
    National Medal of Science 1964
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1965
    ACS Willard Gibbs Medal 1967
    Antoine Lavoisier Medal 1968
    PSGB Hanbury Memorial Medal 1970
    Order of the Rising Sun 1970
    ACS Arthur C. Cope Award 1973 (with Roald Hoffmann)
    Copley Medal 1978
    Ciba Woodward Research Institute, Basel, Switzerland: Director, 1963-82
    Accademia dei Lincei Foreign Member
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Philosophical Society
    Austrian Academy of Science Foreign Member
    German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina Foreign Member
    German Chemical Society Foreign Member
    Indian Academy of Sciences Foreign Fellow
    National Academy of Sciences
    Polaroid Research Consultant
    Royal Irish Academy Foreign Member
    Royal Society Foreign Member
    Royal Society of Chemistry Foreign Member
    Swiss Chemical Society Foreign Member
    Weizmann Institute of Science Board of Directors
    Expelled from School
    English Ancestry Paternal
    Scottish Ancestry Maternal
    Heart Attack 8-Jul-1979 (fatal)

Author of books:
The Conservation of Orbital Symmetry (1970, with Roald Hoffmann)


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