Jack D. Dunitz

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Jack D. Dunitz
Jack David Dunitz

(1923-03-29)29 March 1923[1]
Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Died12 September 2021(2021-09-12) (aged 98)
Alma materUniversity of Glasgow
Known forBürgi–Dunitz angle
SpouseBarbara Steuer[1]
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society (1974)
Gregori Aminoff Prize (1990)
Scientific career
InstitutionsETH Zurich
University of Glasgow
University of Oxford
California Institute of Technology
US National Institute of Health
Royal Institution[1]
ThesisThe crystal and molecular structure of acetylene dicarboxylic acid dihydrate and of diacetylene dicarboxylic acid dihydrate (1946 submitted, accepted 1947)
Doctoral advisorJ. Monteath Robertson
Other academic advisorsDorothy Hodgkin
Linus Pauling
Lawrence Bragg
Doctoral studentsHans-Beat Bürgi
Fritz K. Winkler
Other notable studentsOdile Eisenstein (postdoc)
Keith Hodgson (postdoc)

Jack David Dunitz FRS (29 March 1923 – 12 September 2021) was a British chemist and widely known chemical crystallographer. He was Professor of Chemical Crystallography at the ETH Zurich from 1957 until his official retirement in 1990. He held Visiting Professorships in the United States, Israel, Japan, Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom.

In 1953 he married Barbara Steuer and had two daughters Marguerite (1955) and Julia Gabrielle (1957).[1]


Born in Glasgow, Dunitz was educated at Hillhead High School and Hutchesons' Grammar School. He went on to study at the University of Glasgow where he gained his Bachelor of Science degree and Doctor of Philosophy in 1947.[2]

He held research fellowships at Oxford University (1946–1948, 1951–1953), the California Institute of Technology (1948–1951, 1953–1954), the US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda MD (1954–1955), and the Royal Institution, London (1956–1957).[3]


Dunitz's main research direction involved the use of crystal structure analysis as tool for studying chemical problems. In his early pre-ETH period, his work included structure studies of cyclobutane,[4] of ferrocene with the first description of its electronic structure in terms of orbital symmetry relationships.[5][6] With Orgel he also explained distortions of certain spinel minerals from cubic symmetry in terms of the Jahn-Teller effect.[7] In his later research, at the ETH Zurich and after, Dunitz worked in several areas of structural chemistry, including the conformation and reactivity of medium-ring cycloalkanes and lactams,[8][9] ion-specificity of natural and synthetic ionophores,[10][11][12] chemical reaction paths (see Bürgi-Dunitz angle),[13][14][15] aspects of hydrogen bonding,[16][17][18] molecular motions in solids,[19][20][21][22] phase transformations and solid-state chemical reactions,[23][24] electron density distributions in crystals,[25][26] polymorphism,[27] and intermolecular interactions in condensed phases.[28][29] A few other publications on mathematical or theoretical topics may be of interest.[30][31][32][33][34] Dunitz was also known for Dunitz's Rule: "Almost every scientific publication can be improved by cutting out the first sentence".

Awards and honours[edit]

Dunitz was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974.[35] Dunitz was a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina since 1979,[36] the Academia Europaea since 1989[37] and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. He was also a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1979[38] and an international member of the US National Academy of Sciences since 1988[39] and the American Philosophical Society since 1997.[40] He was an international honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1997.[41] He was an Honorary Member of the Swiss Society of Crystallography,[42] the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Swiss Chemical Society,[43] and the British Crystallographic Association.[44]

Dunitz was the recipient of the Paracelsus Prize[45] of the Swiss Chemical Society[43] (1986), the Gregori Aminoff Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1990), the M.J. Buerger Award of the American Crystallographic Association[46] (1991).[3] He was the first recipient of the Havinga Medal[47] in 1980, and also received the Bijvoet Medal at the University of Utrecht Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research in 1989.[48]

Dunitz held honorary doctorates from the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa) (1990), the Weizmann Institute of Science (1992) and the University of Glasgow (1999).


Dunitz wrote more than 380 scientific papers[49] and was the author of "X-Ray Analysis and the Structure of Organic Molecules" (Cornell University Press, 1979; Verlag Helvetica Chimica Acta, Basel, 1995), and "Reflections on Symmetry in Chemistry...and Elsewhere" (with Edgar Heilbronner, Verlag Helvetica Chimica Acta, Basel, 1993). He was Co-Editor (with J. A. Ibers) of "Perspectives in Structural Chemistry", John Wiley and Sons, Vols. 1–4 (1967– 1971) and (with H.-B. Bürgi) of the two-volume "Structure Correlation", Verlag Chemie, Weinheim, 1994.


Dunitz died on 12 September 2021, at the age of 98 after a short illness.[50]


  1. ^ a b c d "DUNITZ, Prof. Jack David". Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press.(subscription required)
  2. ^ Dunitz, Jack (2012). The crystal and molecular structure of acetylene dicarboxylic acid dihydrate and of diacetylene dicarboxylic acid dihydrate (PhD thesis). University of Glagow.(subscription required)
  3. ^ a b "Dunitz web page at ETH Zurich". Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  4. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Schomaker, V. (1952). "The Molecular Structure of Cyclobutane" (PDF). The Journal of Chemical Physics. 20 (11): 1703. Bibcode:1952JChPh..20.1703D. doi:10.1063/1.1700271.
  5. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Orgel, L. E. (1953). "Bis-cyclopentadienyl Iron: A Molecular Sandwich". Nature. 171 (4342): 121. Bibcode:1953Natur.171..121D. doi:10.1038/171121a0. S2CID 4263761.
  6. ^ J. D. Dunitz, "Forty Years of Ferrocene", in: M. V. Kisak¸rek, ed., Organic Chemistry: Its Language and its State of the Art, Basel: Verlag Helvetica Chimica Acta, 1993, pp. 9–24
  7. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Orgel, L. E. (1957). "Electronic properties of transition-metal oxides—I". Journal of Physics and Chemistry of Solids. 3 (1–2): 20–29. Bibcode:1957JPCS....3...20D. doi:10.1016/0022-3697(57)90043-4.
  8. ^ Dunitz, J. D. (1971). "Conformation of medium rings". Pure and Applied Chemistry. 25 (3): 495–508. doi:10.1351/pac197125030495.
  9. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Winkler, F. K. (1975). "Amide group deformation in medium-ring lactams". Acta Crystallographica Section B. 31: 251–263. doi:10.1107/S0567740875002427.
  10. ^ Kilbourn, B. T.; Dunitz, J. D.; Pioda, L. A. R.; Simon, W. (1967). "Structure of the K+ complex with nonactin, a macrotetrolide antibiotic possessing highly specific K+ transport properties". Journal of Molecular Biology. 30 (3): 559–63. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(67)90370-1. PMID 5598211.
  11. ^ Lutz, W. K.; Winkler, F. K.; Dunitz, J. D. (1971). "Crystal Structure of the Antibiotic Monensin Similarities and Differences between Free Acid and Metal Complex". Helvetica Chimica Acta. 54 (4): 1103–8. doi:10.1002/hlca.19710540419. PMID 5095215.
  12. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Hawley, D. M.; Miklos, D.; White, D. N. J.; Berlin, Y.; Marusić, R.; Prelog, V. (1971). "Structure of boromycin". Helvetica Chimica Acta. 54 (6): 1709–1713. doi:10.1002/hlca.19710540624. PMID 5131791.
  13. ^ Burgi, H. B.; Dunitz, J. D.; Shefter, E. (1973). "Geometrical reaction coordinates. II. Nucleophilic addition to a carbonyl group". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 95 (15): 5065. doi:10.1021/ja00796a058.
  14. ^ Britton, D.; Dunitz, J. D. (1981). "Chemical reaction paths. 7. Pathways for SN2 and SN3 substitution at tin(IV)". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 103 (11): 2971. doi:10.1021/ja00401a011.
  15. ^ Buergi, H. B.; Dunitz, J. D. (1983). "From crystal statics to chemical dynamics". Accounts of Chemical Research. 16 (5): 153. doi:10.1021/ar00089a002.
  16. ^ Cardwell, H. M. E.; Dunitz, J. D.; Orgel, L. E. (1953). "764. The structure of the hydrogen maleate anion : A symmetric hydrogen bond?". Journal of the Chemical Society (Resumed): 3740. doi:10.1039/jr9530003740.
  17. ^ Seiler, P.; Weisman, G. R.; Glendening, E. D.; Weinhold, F.; Johnson, V. B.; Dunitz, J. D. (1987). "Observation of an Eclipsed Csp3-CH3 Bond in a Tricyclic Orthoamide; Experimental and Theoretical Evidence for CH⃛O Hydrogen Bonds". Angewandte Chemie International Edition in English. 26 (11): 1175. doi:10.1002/anie.198711751.
  18. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Taylor, R. (1997). "Organic Fluorine Hardly Ever Accepts Hydrogen Bonds". Chemistry: A European Journal. 3: 89–98. doi:10.1002/chem.19970030115.
  19. ^ Brock, C. P.; Dunitz, J. D. (1982). "Temperature dependence of thermal motion in crystalline naphthalene". Acta Crystallographica Section B. 38 (8): 2218. doi:10.1107/S0567740882008358.
  20. ^ Maverick, E.; Dunitz, J. D. (1987). "Rotation barriers in crystals from atomic displacement parameters". Molecular Physics. 62 (2): 451. Bibcode:1987MolPh..62..451M. doi:10.1080/00268978700102321.
  21. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Schomaker, V.; Trueblood, K. N. (1988). "Interpretation of atomic displacement parameters from diffraction studies of crystals". The Journal of Physical Chemistry. 92 (4): 856. doi:10.1021/j100315a002.
  22. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Maverick, E. F.; Trueblood, K. N. (1988). "Atomic Motions in Molecular Crystals from Diffraction Measurements". Angewandte Chemie International Edition in English. 27 (7): 880. doi:10.1002/anie.198808801.
  23. ^ Dunitz, J. D. (1995). "Phase changes and chemical reactions in molecular crystals". Acta Crystallographica Section B. 51 (4): 619–631. doi:10.1107/S0108768194012036.
  24. ^ Zandomeneghi, G.; Schweizer, W. B.; Gilmour, R.; Meier, B. H.; Dunitz, J. D. (2012). "Dl-Ribose Crystal Structures: The Glass Crystal Transformation". Helvetica Chimica Acta. 95 (10): 1687. doi:10.1002/hlca.201200339.
  25. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Schweizer, W. B.; Seiler, P. (1983). "X-Ray Study of the Deformation Density in Tetrafluoroterephthalodinitrile: Weak Bonding Density in the C, F-Bond". Helvetica Chimica Acta. 66: 123–133. doi:10.1002/hlca.19830660113.
  26. ^ Seiler, P.; Dunitz, J. D. (1986). "Are ionic solids really built of ions? New evidence from x-ray diffraction". Helvetica Chimica Acta. 69 (5): 1107. doi:10.1002/hlca.19860690518.
  27. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Bernstein, J. (1995). "Disappearing Polymorphs". Accounts of Chemical Research. 28 (4): 193. doi:10.1021/ar00052a005.
  28. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Gavezzotti, A. (2009). "How molecules stick together in organic crystals: Weak intermolecular interactions". Chemical Society Reviews. 38 (9): 2622–33. doi:10.1039/b822963p. PMID 19690742.
  29. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Gavezzotti, A.; Rizzato, S. (2014). "'Coulombic Compression', a Pervasive Force in Ionic Solids. A Study of Anion Stacking in Croconate Salts". Crystal Growth & Design. 14: 357–366. doi:10.1021/cg401646t.
  30. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Waser, J. (1972). "The Planarity of the Equilateral Isogonal Pentagon". Elemente der Mathematik. 27: 25–32.
  31. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Waser, J. (1972). "Geometric constraints in six- and eight-membered rings". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 94 (16): 5645. doi:10.1021/ja00771a018.
  32. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Ha, T. K. (1972). "Non-empirical SCF calculations on hydrogen-like molecules: The effect of nuclear charge on binding energy and bond length". Journal of the Chemical Society, Chemical Communications (9): 568. doi:10.1039/c39720000568.
  33. ^ Sarma, J. A. R. P.; Nangia, A.; Desiraju, G. R.; Zass, E.; Dunitz, J. D. (1996). "Even–odd carbon atom disparity". Nature. 384 (6607): 320. Bibcode:1996Natur.384..320S. doi:10.1038/384320a0. S2CID 44969482.
  34. ^ Dunitz, J. D.; Ibberson, R. M. (2008). "Is Deuterium Always Smaller than Protium?". Angewandte Chemie International Edition. 47 (22): 4208–10. doi:10.1002/anie.200800063. PMID 18412199.
  35. ^ "Jack Dunitz". Royal Society. Archived from the original on 15 August 2020.
  36. ^ "Prof. Dr. Jack David Dunitz" (in German). German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Archived from the original on 5 November 2020.
  37. ^ "Jack Dunitz". Academia Europaea. Archived from the original on 28 March 2019.
  38. ^ "J.D. Dunitz". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 11 August 2020.
  39. ^ "Jack D. Dunitz". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 24 March 2019.
  40. ^ "Dr. Jack David Dunitz". American Philosophical Society. Archived from the original on 5 November 2020.
  41. ^ "Jack David Dunitz". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 5 November 2020.
  42. ^ "SSCR webpage of the Swiss Society for Crystallography". Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  43. ^ a b "Swiss Chemical Society Homepage". Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  44. ^ "British Crystallographic Association". Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  45. ^ "Paracelsus Prize". Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  46. ^ "American Crystallographic Association Homepage". Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  47. ^ "Laureates Havinga Foundation". Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  48. ^ "Bijvoet Medal". Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research. Archived from the original on 12 September 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  49. ^ Jack D. Dunitz publications indexed by Microsoft Academic
  50. ^ "Jack Dunitz deceased". ETH Zürich. 13 September 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021.

External links[edit]