Robert Woodward

Robert Woodward
Robert Burns Woodward in 1965.jpg
Born(1917-04-10)April 10, 1917
DiedJuly 8, 1979(1979-07-08) (aged 62)
ResidenceUnited States
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materMIT
Known forOrganic syntheses, solution of several important structural puzzles, Woodward-Hoffmann rules
AwardsNational Medal of Science (1964)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1965)
Copley Medal (1978)
Scientific career
FieldsOrganic chemistry
InstitutionsHarvard University
Doctoral studentsHarry Wasserman, Ronald Breslow, Stuart Schreiber, Ken Houk, William R. Roush

Robert Burns Woodward (April 10, 1917 – July 8, 1979) was an American organic chemist.[1] He made many important discoveries in modern organic chemistry. He worked on the synthesis and structure of complex natural products. He worked closely with Roald Hoffmann on the theory of chemical reactions. Woodward won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1965.

Early life and education

Woodward was born in Boston, Massachusetts. When he was one year old, his father died in the influenza pandemic of 1918.

He was interested in chemistry at an early age. By the time he entered high school, he had already done most of the experiments in Ludwig Gattermann's textbook of experimental organic chemistry. In 1928, Woodward asked the Consul-General of the German consulate in Boston, to send him copies of a few original papers published in German journals. He was fascinated to read Otto Diels and Kurt Alder's original communication about the Diels–Alder reaction.

In 1933, he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but did not do well enough to continue. MIT readmitted him in 1935, and by 1936 he had received the Bachelor of Science degree. Only one year later, MIT awarded him the doctorate. This was very unusual at the time, because most MIT students earned only a Bachelor of Science degree after four years. Woodward's studies were about the synthesis of the female sex hormone estrone, a natural type of estrogen.[2] He held a Junior Fellowship at Harvard University from 1937 to 1938, and stayed at Harvard for the rest of his life. In the 1960s, Woodward was named Donner Professor of Science, a post which allowed him to spend all his time on research.

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