George C. Pimentel

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George C. Pimentel
Born(1922-05-02)May 2, 1922
DiedJune 18, 1989(1989-06-18) (aged 67)
Alma materUniversity of California, Los Angeles (B.S. 1943)
University of California, Berkeley (Ph.D. 1949)
Known forChemical laser, matrix isolation, infrared spectroscopy of MARS and chemical education
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley
ThesisI. Spectroscopic study of two Boranes / II. Thermocouples involving superconductors (1949)
Doctoral advisorKenneth S. Pitzer[1]
Doctoral studentsJohn D. Baldeschwieler
Mario Molina
William Klemperer
Vicki Grassian
Geraldine L. Richmond
Lester Andrews

George Claude Pimentel (May 2, 1922 – June 18, 1989) was a preeminent chemist and researcher. He was also dedicated to science education and public service. the inventor of the chemical laser.[2] He developed the technique of matrix isolation in low-temperature chemistry. He also developed time-resolved infrared spectroscopy to study radicals and other transient species. In the late 1960s, Pimentel led the University of California team that designed the infrared spectrometer for the Mars Mariner 6 and 7 missions that analyzed the surface and atmosphere of Mars.[3]

He was a passionate and popular teacher of first-year chemistry for his entire career. In science education, he was best known for the CHEM STUDY project, a national effort to improve high-school chemistry teaching. He participated in the production of films and other supplementary materials and in the training of teachers nationwide. Later, in 1985, he organized and edited the National Academy of Sciences' "Pimentel Report," formally known as Opportunities in Chemistry, which highlighted the most important challenges in chemistry at that time. It was a resource for general public including lawmakers. A revised version, Opportunities in Chemistry Today and Tomorrow, was used worldwide for high school and college students.

An alumnus of University of California, Los Angeles (B.S. 1943) and University of California, Berkeley (Ph.D. 1949), Pimentel began teaching at Berkeley in 1949, where he remained until his death in 1989 from intestinal cancer, with a three year appointment as Deputy Director at the National Science Foundation under the Carter administration in Washington, D.C..[1][4]

Honors and awards[edit]

The ACS Award in Chemical Education was renamed the George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education in his honor in 1989.[5][6]

In 1966, Pimentel was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and in 1968 to the American Academy of Arts and Science. In 1985, 1987 and 1989 he was elected an honorary member to the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Chemical Society (Great Britain), and the Royal Institute of Great Britain.[7] In 1987, he served as the President of the American Chemical Society.

Chemical laser[edit]

In 1961, John C.Polanyi was the first to point out the possibility of chemical pumping based on vibrational excitation. He proposed four possible reactions, one of which was the reaction of H + Cl2. Using an infrared spectrometer, Jerome Kasper and Pimentel discovered infrared pulses produced by photodissociation of iodine, the first chemical laser. In September 1964, they announced their discovery at the first conference on chemical lasers, by that time more than 100 possible chemical reactions and 60 photodissociation reactions were proposed capable of producing laser radiation. However, at the symposium in San Diego only one working laser was reported, which was laced with photodissociation of iodine. In 1965, Kasper and Pimentel discovered the laser radiation HCl, arising from the explosion of the system H2 / Cl2. After the discovery of the laser based on the reaction of F + H2 in 1967, the number of chemical lasers found by the Pimentel laboratory rapidly increased. Thus, Pimentel first transformed the chemical energy obtained as a result of vibrational excitation into laser radiation.


  1. ^ a b Kauffman, George B. (December 1999). "George C. Pimentel (1922–1989): A Retrospective Personal and Pictorial Tribute a Decade after His Death | SpringerLink" (PDF). The Chemical Educator. 4 (6): 242–258. doi:10.1007/s00897990342a. S2CID 93524208. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  2. ^ Moore, C. Bradley (1990). "George Pimentel". Physics Today. 43 (3): 96. Bibcode:1990PhT....43c..96M. doi:10.1063/1.2810504. ISSN 0031-9228.
  3. ^ "George C. Pimentel". Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  4. ^ New York Times Obituary: George C. Pimentel; Chemist Who Led Mars Study Was 67
  5. ^ "Awards Named for George C. Pimentel". Archived from the original on 2004-05-27. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  6. ^ "George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education - American Chemical Society". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  7. ^ "George Claude Pimentel – inventor of chemical laser". 2013-04-30.

External links[edit]