John D. Roberts

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John D. Roberts
John D. Roberts in 2010
John Dombrowski Roberts

(1918-06-08)June 8, 1918
DiedOctober 29, 2016(2016-10-29) (aged 98)
Alma materUCLA
Scientific career
InstitutionsPenn State
ThesisStudies of the nature of the butenyl Grignard reagent (1945)
Doctoral advisorsWilliam Gould Young
Doctoral students
Other notable studentsPost-docs:


MS student:

John Dombrowski Roberts (June 8, 1918 – October 29, 2016) was an American chemist. He made contributions to the integration of physical chemistry, spectroscopy, and organic chemistry for the understanding of chemical reaction rates. Another characteristic of Roberts' work was the early use of NMR, focusing on the concept of spin coupling.[1]


Roberts in 1967

Roberts received both a B.A. (1941) and Ph.D. (1944) from the University of California, Los Angeles, working under Professor William Gould Young.[2] He held several positions at the California Institute of Technology, including division chairman of chemistry and chemical engineering from 1963 to 1968, dean of the faculty and provost from 1980 to 1983 and Institute Professor of chemistry, emeritus (1988–2016) in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.[3] He is credited with bringing the first female graduate student, Dorothy Semenow, to Caltech when he moved from MIT.[4][5] He was a consultant for DuPont Central Research (1950–2008)[6] and for Oak Ridge.[3]

He published his autobiography in 1990, The Right Place at the Right Time.[7][8] Roberts died on October 29, 2016, at the age of 98 from a stroke.[9][10]

Awards and honors[edit]

Roberts was elected a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1952.[11] He was elected Member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1956 at 38 years old.[12] He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1974.[13] In 1978, he was elected a Fellow of The Explorers Club. In 1984, Roberts received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement,[14] awarded the Priestley Medal in 1987,[15] the National Medal of Science in 1990,[16] the Glenn T. Seaborg Medal in 1991,[17] the NAS Award in Chemical Sciences in 1999,[18] the Nakanishi Prize in 2001,[19] the NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society in 2009,[20] the Linus Pauling Legacy Award in 2006[21] and the American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal in 2013.[6]

Roberts received honorary degrees from the University of Munich (1962), Temple University (1964) and the University of Notre Dame.[3]

In 1998 he was named by Chemical & Engineering News as one of the 75 most influential chemists of the last 75 years.[22]


  1. ^ "Early Ideas in the History of Quantum Chemistry". U. Anders, Ph.D. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  2. ^ Roberts, John D. (1945). Studies of the nature of the butenyl Grignard reagent (Ph.D. thesis). University of California, Los Angeles. OCLC 20899542 – via ProQuest.
  3. ^ a b c Center for Oral History. "John D. Roberts". Science History Institute.
  4. ^ "Interview with John D. Roberts (b. 1918)" (PDF). Caltech Oral History Project, Caltech Archives, Caltech. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  5. ^ Bell, Brian (July 29, 2013). "Caltech's John D. Roberts Awarded Gold Medal". Pasadena Now. Archived from the original on July 12, 2016. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  6. ^ a b "American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal". Science History Institute. February 19, 2018.
  7. ^ "John D. Roberts (1918– )". National Science Foundation. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  8. ^ The Right Place at the Right Time. WorldCat. OCLC 21197391.
  9. ^ Fleur, Nicholas St (November 6, 2016). "John D. Roberts Dies at 98; He Revolutionized the Field of Organic Chemistry". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  10. ^ "John D. Roberts, 1918-2016 | Caltech". The California Institute of Technology. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  11. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter R" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 15, 2011.
  12. ^ "National Academy of Sciences, Member Directory". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  13. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  14. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  15. ^ "Prieslty Medal winners". American Chemical Society. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  16. ^ "John D. Roberts (1918– )". National Science Foundation. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  17. ^ "Past Seaborg Medal Recipients". Glenn T. Seaborg Medal. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  18. ^ "NAS Honors 17 For Contributions To Science". The Scientist. April 26, 1999. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  19. ^ "Nakanishi Prize". American Chemical Society. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  20. ^ "Academy Honors 18 for Major Contributions to Science". News from the National Academies. January 28, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  21. ^ ""Useful Knowledge about Magnetic Resonance Imaging," Dr. John D. Roberts (video and transcript)". Special Collections and Archives, Oregon State University. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  22. ^ "Contributors to the Chemical Enterprise: C&EN's Top 75". Chemical & Engineering News. January 12, 1998. Retrieved February 5, 2015.


  • Roberts, John D. "ABCs of FT-NMR." University Science Books, Sausalito, California, 2000.
  • "JDR." Engineering & Science 1980, 44(2), p. 10.


External links[edit]