George M. Whitesides

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For his son, a space advocate, see George T. Whitesides.
George McClelland Whitesides
George Whitesides HD2010 Othmer Gold Medal portrait6.JPG
George M. Whitesides, 2010
Born (1939-08-03) August 3, 1939 (age 75)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Residence U.S.
Nationality American
Fields chemistry, nanotechnology
Institutions Harvard University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Alma mater Harvard University
California Institute of Technology
Thesis The configurational stability of primary Grignard reagents. Applications of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to the study of molecular asymmetry (1964)
Doctoral advisor John D. Roberts
Doctoral students Craig L. Hill, Chi-Huey Wong, John A. Rogers, Younan Xia
Known for The Corey-House-Posner-Whitesides reaction
Contributions in the fields of NMR spectroscopy, organometallic chemistry, molecular self-assembly, soft lithography,[1] microfabrication, microfluidics, and nanotechnology.
Notable awards

ACS Award in Pure Chemistry (1975)
National Medal of Science (1998)
Kyoto Prize (2003)
Dan David Prize (2005)
Linus Pauling Award (2005)
Priestley Medal (2007)
R&D Magazine – Scientist of the Year (2007)
Othmer Gold Medal (2010)
King Faisal International Prize (2011)

George M. Whitesides (born August 3, 1939) 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,[2] microfabrication, microfluidics, and nanotechnology. Whitesides is also known for publishing his "outline system" for writing scientific papers.[3] As of December 2011, he has the highest Hirsch index rating of all living chemists.[4]

Education and academic career[edit]


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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

External video
George Whitesides HD2010 podium.JPG
Publishing Your Research 101 Impact of technology on scientific articles, George Whitesides, American Chemical Society, April 29, 2011
Zero cost diagnostics George Whitesides, TEDxBoston, August 10, 2009
Toward a science of simplicity, George Whitesides, TED, April 29, 2010

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 (560 m2). 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." [5] The single primary objective of his lab is "to fundamentally change the paradigms of science."

Policy and public service[edit]

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.[6]

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[edit]

Whitesides is the author of more than 1200 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.[7] 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.

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.

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),[8][9] the highest honor conferred by the ACS.

More recently, George Whitesides received the 2009 Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences from The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation on September 30, 2009, for his creation of new materials that have significantly advanced the field of chemistry and its societal benefits.[10] In November 2009, he was recipient of the Reed M. Izatt and James J. Christensen Lectureship. Also in 2009, George Whitesides was awarded the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry by The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, for his pioneering chemical research in molecular self-assembly and innovative nanofabrication techniques that have resulted in rapid, inexpensive fabrication of ultra small devices.

He received the Othmer Gold Medal for outstanding contributions to progress in chemistry and science in 2010.[11][12] He was awarded the F.A. Cotton Medal for Excellence in Chemical Research of the American Chemical Society in 2011. In 2011 he also received the King Faisal International Prize in Chemistry.[13] In 2013 he was awarded the IRI Medal alongside Robert S. Langer.

Personal life[edit]

Whitesides and his wife, Barbara, have two sons, George T. and Ben. George Thomas Whitesides is CEO and President of Virgin Galactic, a firm developing commercial space vehicles. Ben Whitesides is lead singer and songwriter of The Joggers, a rock band based in Portland, Oregon.


  1. ^ Weiss, P. S. (2007). "A Conversation with Prof. George M. Whitesides: Pioneer in Soft Nanolithography". ACS Nano 1 (2): 73–78. doi:10.1021/nn700225n. PMID 19206522.  edit
  2. ^ Xia, Y.; Whitesides, G. M. (1998). "Soft Lithography". Annual Review of Materials Science 28: 153. Bibcode:1998AnRMS..28..153X. doi:10.1146/annurev.matsci.28.1.153.  edit
  3. ^ Whitesides, G.M. (2004). "Whitesides' Group: Writing a Paper". Advanced Materials 16 (15): 1375. doi:10.1002/adma.200400767.  edit
  4. ^ H index ranking of living chemists PDF (85.3 KB), by University of Georgia.
  5. ^ Whitesides Group - People
  6. ^ Chemistry at the Centre: an International Assessment of University Research in Chemistry in the UK
  7. ^ 1000 Most Cited Chemists 1981-1997
  8. ^ Celia Arnaud. 2006. Whitesides named Priestley Medalist. Chemical and Engineering News. June 12, 2006, pg. 7.
  9. ^ H. Kent Bowen and Francesca Gino. "The Whitesides Lab" Harvard Business School Case Study #N9-606-064. March 17, 2006.
  10. ^ "Harvard chemist accepts Dreyfus Prize for Chemical Sciences". Cambridge Chronicle ( October 3, 2009. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Past Winners of the Othmer Gold Medal". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 12 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Gussman, Neil (25 January 2010). "Chemical Heritage Foundation to Present Othmer Gold Medal to George M. Whitesides". PR Newswire. Retrieved 12 June 2014. 
  13. ^ King Faisal International Prize

External links[edit]