Public Release: 

Harvard chemist wins national award for lifetime achievements in chemistry

American Chemical Society


IMAGE: Harvard chemist George M. Whitesides, Ph.D., will receive the 2007 Priestley Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Chemical Society for his distinguished service to the field of chemistry over 40... view more

Credit: (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard University News Office)

Harvard chemist George M. Whitesides, Ph.D., has been chosen to receive the 2007 Priestley Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Chemical Society (ACS), for his distinguished service to the field of chemistry over 40 years. ACS is the world's largest scientific society.

Whitesides' contributions include groundbreaking research is such diverse areas as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), materials and surface science, microfluidics and nanotechnology. He will receive the award on March 27 during a special award's banquet at the Society's spring national meeting, held March 25-29 in Chicago.

Whitesides, a professor of chemistry at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., expressed surprise and honor at being selected. He is known for his broad contributions throughout the field of chemistry and for his outstanding leadership and influence in academia, industry and government. He is particularly noted for his unique insights into surface chemistry, including the 'self-assembly' process that controls how molecules arrange themselves on a surface. These studies have laid the groundwork for advances in nanoscience that could lead to new technologies in electronics, pharmaceutical science and medical diagnostics.

His other research interests include biophysics, science for developing economies, the origin of life and cell-surface biochemistry. A proflific and innovative researcher, Whitesides is the author of more than 900 researcher papers and holds over 50 patents. A passionate educator, he has mentored and taught a large pool of talented chemists who now hold influential positions in academia and industry.

Whitesides is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious National Medal of Science (1998). His memberships include the American Academy of Arts, National Academy of Sciences and the American Chemical Society (for 46 years). He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Institute of Physics.

Recently, Whitesides served as a member of the committee that created the National Academies' report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," which calls for revitalization of U.S. competitiveness in science, engineering and technology. He also has been an advisor to the Department of Defense and served on numerous editorial boards of major research journals.

Whitesides was born in Louisville, Ky., on Aug. 3, 1939. He earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1960 and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1964. He was a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1963 to 1982. In 1982, in joined the Department of Chemistry at Harvard and now serves as the school's Woodford L. & Ann A. Flowers University Professor, a post he has held since 2004.

The Priestley Medal is named for Joseph Priestley, who reported the discovery of oxygen in 1774. The American Chemical Society has recognized groundbreaking chemists with the annual award since 1923, when it conveyed the first Priestley Medal to Ira Remsen, the chemist credited with bringing laboratory research to American universities.


The American Chemical Society -- the world's largest scientific society -- is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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