Essay Example on Organic Chemistry: John D. Roberts

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George Washington University
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John D. Roberts is one of the most iconic figures in the field of physical organic chemistry. He was born in 1918, June 8 in Los Angeles, California, U.S. and died in 2016, October 29. He developed intense interests in science, particularly chemistry, at a tender age. While pursuing his undergraduate studies at the UCLA; commencing 1936, he swiftly engaged in various research undertakings in organic chemistry under the guidance of Bill Young and Saul Winstein amongst other scholars.

Even though Roberts enrolled for his graduate studies at the Pennsylvania State University, where he worked with Frank Whitmore, he returned to UCLA under the influence of Weinstein and Young, to work on a combined doctoral program. Working on butenyl Grignard reagents and reactions, Roberts attained his Ph.D. in 1944. This was the onset of his fruitful career as he became a scholar and researcher at UCLA and MIT, working on small-ring compounds which turned out to be the primary theme of his research. Following his previous scholarly positions, in 1952, Roberts moved to Caltech where he was appointed the professor of physical organic chemistry the following year. In 1972, Roberts became the Institute Professor and in 1988 an Emeritus professor and lecturer. Before his retirement in 1988, Roberts served under various faculty positions; 1963-1968, Chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech, 1972-1973, acting chair, and 1980-1983, the vice president, provost, and faculty dean.

Roberts pioneered the utilization of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy alongside other methods to reveal complex molecular structures as well as the movements of atoms as they are reordered in chemical reactions. Roberts also utilized radioactive tracers to examine the thermal restructures of small-ring hydrocarbons to enhance the understanding of reactions on a mechanistic stage. Roberts put a robust intellectual foundation to reactions proceed from reactants to the product. He was one of the initial champions in the 1950s, advancing methods to illustrate the chemical transient intermediates. He symbolized what renders Caltech special; an immense educator and science, traversing disciplinary limits to make significant contributions to human lives.

Roberts received many prestigious awards for his scientific accomplishments; the American Chemical Society (ACS)s top award, the Priestley Medal (1987) as well as the National Medal of Science (1990). Roberts was named by Chemical and Engineering News in 1998, as among the top most 75 prominent chemists in the past 75 years. In fact, in 1956 aged 38, Roberts was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences, making him the youngest member then. One of Roberts primary inventions was an intermediate compound in chemical reactions which involved benzene; a carbon-containing ring. In 1953, Roberts revealed that benzene could be transformed into an unstable compound with a short life; namely benzyne, in which two carbons in the six-membered structure connect to each other via triple bonding. Benzene is converted to benzyne via a chemical bond restructuring, and these chemical bonds which Roberts propose were actually off the charts then.

In conclusion, John Roberts was a proud educator and mentor, via his teachings, his research interests and the large group of students; graduate, undergraduate and post-doctoral, who he guided at Caltech, UCLA, and MIT. Roberts would be missed by all individuals who he interacted with on a personal and professional basis, and by many who he never met through his scholarly works have immensely influenced.

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