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Herbert A. Hauptman

Herbert A. HauptmanAKA Herbert Aaron Hauptman

Born: 14-Feb-1917
Birthplace: New York City
Died: 23-Oct-2011
Location of death: Buffalo, NY
Cause of death: Stroke

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist [1]
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Mathematician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: X-ray diffraction studies

Military service: US Air Force (1941-47; radar instructor)

American mathematician Herbert A. Hauptman, working with chemist Jerome Karle, developed a method to help clarify x-ray crystallography (the study of the formation and structure of crystals), using a mathematical process called the "direct method" to overcome technical issues and allow much quicker and more accurate analysis of molecular structures. Their work allowed researchers to determine the location of specific atoms in a crystallized substance, by analyzing the pattern diffraction, called scattering, in variable intensities.

Hauptman and Karle calculated their process using slide rules over the course of several years beginning in 1949 and culminating in a 1953 paper. More than a decade passed before the value of their methodology was widely accepted, because their conclusions crossed scientific disciplines crystallographers had little interest in complex mathematics and doubted that math was relevant to their technical problems, while very few mathematicians knew enough about crystallography to make sense of Hauptman and Karle's papers.

The results, however, were spectacular. Unravelling the structure of a relatively simple 15-atom antibiotic molecule was reduced from a two-year task to a matter of mere days. With the advent of computer software, their process was used to almost instantly reveal the structures of thousands of molecules for the first time, leading to practical applications including hormones analysis, improved fertilizers, and the development of myriad new antibiotics and pharmaceuticals.

Hauptman attended City College of New York in a time when its tuition was free, and often stated that it was the only way he could have afforded a college education. With Karle, he won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1985.

[1] "This kind of belief [religion] is damaging to the well-being of the human race."

Father: Israel Hauptman
Mother: Leah Rosenfeld
Brother: Manuel (d. 2009)
Brother: Robert
Wife: Edith Citrynell (teacher, m. 10-Nov-1940, two daughters)
Daughter: Barbara (b. 1947)
Daughter: Carol Fullerton (b. 1950)

    High School: Townsend Harris High School, Queens, NY (1933)
BS Mathematics, City College of New York (1937)
    University: MA Mathematics, Columbia University (1939)
    University: PhD Mathematics, University of Maryland (1955)

    Hauptman Woodward Institute President (1988-)
    Hauptman Woodward Institute Research Director (1970-88)
    Navy Department Naval Research Laboratory (1947-70)
    US Commerce Department Statistician, US Census Bureau (1939-41)
    Belden Prize in Mathematics 1936
    NRL RESA Award for Applied Science 1957
    ACA A.L. Patterson Award 1984 (with Jerome Karle)
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1985 (with Jerome Karle)
    Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award 1986
    ACS Jacob F. Schoellkopf Award 1986
    National Library of Medicine Award 1986
    ICTP Dirac Medal 1991
    Association of Independent Research Institutes President, 1979-81
    Federation of American Scientists Board of Sponsors
    Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences
    National Academy of Sciences 1988
    Phi Beta Kappa Society 1987
    Jewish Ancestry
    Asteroid Namesake 9931 Herbhauptman

Author of books:
Crystal Structure Determination: The Role of Cosine Semivariants (1972, mathematics)
101 Great Ideas for Introducing Key Concepts in Mathematics (2001, with Alfred S Posamentier)
Combinatorial Image Analysis (2008, textbook; with Reneta P. Barneva and Valentin E. Brimkov)
On the Beauty of Science (2008, popular science; as told to D.J. Grothe)

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