Ronald Breslow

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Ronald Breslow
Ronald Breslow HD2006 Othmer Gold Medal portrait.JPG
Born (1931-03-14) March 14, 1931 (age 83)
Rahway, New Jersey, U.S.
Fields Chemistry
Institutions Columbia University
Alma mater Harvard University
Doctoral advisor Robert Burns Woodward
Doctoral students Robert Grubbs Doug La Follette
Notable awards ACS Award in Pure Chemistry (1966)
National Medal of Science (1991)
Priestley Medal (1999)
Othmer Gold Medal (2006)
Perkin Medal (2010)

Ronald C. D. Breslow (born March 14, 1931) is an American chemist from Rahway, New Jersey. He is currently University Professor at Columbia University, where he is based in the Department of Chemistry and affiliated with the Departments of Biological Sciences and Pharmacology; he has also been on the faculty of its Department of Chemical Engineering. He has taught at Columbia since 1956 and is a former chair of the university's chemistry department.

He is interested in the design and synthesis of new molecules with interesting properties, and the study of these properties. Examples include the cyclopropenyl cation, the simplest aromatic system and the first aromatic compound prepared with other than six electrons in a ring. His seminal contributions concerning the mechanism of the vitamin B1 catalyzed benzoin condensation and the rate enhancement gained by performing organic transformations on water, among many others, sparked new avenues of chemical research. He also co-discovered the histone deacetylase inhibitor SAHA (Vorinostat) which is FDA-approved for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.[1]

Breslow earned his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University, where his doctoral advisor was R. B. Woodward. Among Breslow's former Ph.D. students is Robert Grubbs, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2005, and Doug La Follette, Secretary of State of Wisconsin.

Breslow has received many honors and awards, including the National Medal of Science in 1991,[2] the Welch Award, the Arthur C. Cope Award, the NAS Award in Chemical Sciences, the American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry, the Othmer Gold Medal[3][4] and the Priestley Medal. In recognition of his classroom skills, Columbia has awarded him both its Mark Van Doren Award and its Great Teacher Award. He served as president of the ACS in 1996 and chaired the chemistry division of the National Academy of Sciences from 1974 to 1977. In 1997 he was named one of the top 75 contributors to the chemical enterprise of the past 75 years by Chemical & Engineering News. He was the Myron L. Bender distinguished lecturer at Northwestern University in 1999. The Ronald Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry, awarded annually by the ACS, is named in his honor.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He is also a foreign member of the Royal Society and an honorary member of many other scientific bodies around the world.

In 2012, his paper "Evidence for the Likely Origin of Homochirality in Amino Acids, Sugars, and Nucleosides on Prebiotic Earth" was retracted from the Journal of the American Chemical Society due to copyright concerns, leading to a debate on self-plagiarism and the distinction between a personal review and a paper.[5]


  1. ^ Paul A Marks; Ronald Breslow (2007). "Dimethyl sulfoxide to vorinostat: development of this histone deacetylase inhibitor as an anticancer drug". Nature Biotechnology 25 (1): 84–90. doi:10.1038/nbt1272. 
  2. ^ National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science
  3. ^ "Past Winners of the Othmer Gold Medal". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 12 June 2014. 
  4. ^ Zurer, Pamela (28 June 2006). "At Heritage Day, Honors For Chemists". Chemical & Engineering News. Retrieved 12 June 2014. 
  5. ^ Daniel Cressey (25 Apr 2012). "Eminent chemist denies self-plagiarism in ‘space dinosaurs’ paper". Nature News Blog. 

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