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George M. Whitesides

George McClelland Whitesides
BornAugust 3 1939(1939-08-03)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
InstitutionsHarvard University
Alma materHarvard University
California Institute of Technology
Academic advisor  John D. Roberts
Notable students  Chi-Huey Wong, John A. Rogers, Younan Xia
Known forThe Corey-House-Posner-Whitesides reaction
Contributions in the fields of NMR spectroscopy, organometallic chemistry, molecular self-assembly, soft lithography, microfabrication, microfluidics, and nanotechnology.
Notable prizesNational Medal of Science (1998)
Kyoto Prize (2003)
Dan David Prize (2005)
Priestley Medal (2007)

George M. Whitesides (b. August 3, 1939, Louisville, Kentucky) is an American chemist and professor of chemistry at Harvard University. He is best known for his work in the areas of NMR spectroscopy, organometallic chemistry, molecular self-assembly, soft lithography, microfabrication, microfluidics, and nanotechnology. Whitesides is also known for his "outline system" for writing scientific papers. [1] He currently has the highest Hirsch index rating of all living chemists. [2]


Education and Academic Career


Whitesides attended secondary school at Phillips Andover and graduated in 1957. He received his A.B. degree from Harvard College in 1960 and earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1964. Under the tutelage of John D. Roberts, Whitesides' graduate work focused on the use of NMR spectroscopy in organic chemistry. Among other research endeavors, he studied spin-spin coupling in a variety of organic compounds and the structure of Grignard reagents in solution.

Research at MIT

Whitesides began his independent career as an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963 and remained there until 1982. While at MIT, he played a pivotal role in the development of the Corey-House-Posner-Whitesides reaction, which now bears his name.

Research at Harvard

In 1982, Whitesides moved his laboratory to the Department of Chemistry at Harvard University, his alma mater. He has served tenures as chairman of the Chemistry Department (1986-89) and associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (1989-92).

Current Research

Whitesides is currently the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard, one of only 21 University Professorships at the institution. He maintains an active research group of over 35 graduate and postdoctoral students with a four-person office support staff and lab space covering more than 6,000 square feet. According to the biography on his Web site, Whitesides' current research interests include "physical and organic chemistry, materials science, biophysics, complexity, surface science, microfluidics, self-assembly, micro- and nanotechnology, science for developing economies, origin of life, and cell-surface biochemistry." [3] The single primary objective of his lab is "to fundamentally change the paradigms of science."

Policy and Public Service

Beyond his scientific research, Whitesides is also active in public service. He participated in the National Academies' report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," which addressed U.S. competitiveness in science and technology. In 2002, he served as chairman of the panel that evaluated the state of chemical research in the United Kingdom. Their findings were summarized what is now known as the Whitesides Report [4].

Whitesides has served on advisory committees for the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Defense. He has also served on the National Research Council in various capacities since 1984, including stints on the Committee on Science and Technology for Counter Terrorism and the Committee on Nanotechnology for the Intelligence Community.

Awards and Achievements

Whitesides is the author of more than 950 scientific articles and is listed as an inventor on more than 50 patents. He ranked 5th on Thomson ISI's list of the 1000 most cited chemists from 1981-1997.[5] Whitesides has co-founded over 12 companies with a combined market capitalization of over $20 billion. These companies include Genzyme, GelTex, Theravance, Surface Logix, Nano-Terra, and WMR Biomedical. Whitesides has mentored more than 300 graduate students, postdocs, and visiting scholars. He serves on the editorial advisory boards of several scientific journals, including Angewandte Chemie, Chemistry & Biology, and Small.

Among other awards, Whitesides is the recipient of the American Chemical Society's Award in Pure Chemistry (1975), the Arthur C. Cope Award (1995), National Medal of Science (1998), the Kyoto Prize in Materials Science and Engineering (2003), the Dan David Prize (2005), the Welch Award in Chemistry (2005), and the Priestley Medal (2007) [6] [7], the highest honor conferred by the ACS.

Whitesides is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering. He is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Personal life

George and his wife, Barbara, have two sons, George T. and Ben. George T. Whitesides is the executive director of the National Space Society. Ben Whitesides is lead singer and songwriter of The Joggers, a rock band based in Portland, Oregon.


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  6. ^ Celia Arnaud. 2006. Whitesides named Priestley Medalist. Chemical and Engineering News. June 12, 2006, pg. 7.
  7. ^ H. Kent Bowen and Francesca Gino. "The Whitesides Lab" Harvard Business School Case Study #N9-606-064. March 17, 2006.

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "George_M._Whitesides". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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