John E. Bercaw

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John E. Bercaw
John Bercaw 1986.png
John Bercaw in 1986
Born (1944-12-03) December 3, 1944 (age 74)
Alma mater
Known forMetallocene chemistry
Awards1980 ACS Award in Pure Chemistry
Scientific career
InstitutionsCalifornia Institute of Technology
ThesisTitanocene as a reactive intermediate in the reduction of molecular hydrogen and nitrogen (1971)
Doctoral advisorHans-Herbert Brintzinger
Other academic advisorsJack Halpern
Doctoral studentsPeter T. Wolczanski

John E. Bercaw (born December 3, 1944) is an American chemist and Centennial Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Bercaw obtained his bachelor of science in 1967 from North Carolina State University and later his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1971 under the direction of Hans-Herbert Brintzinger,[3] followed by postdoctoral research with Jack Halpern at the University of Chicago.[4]


He joined the faculty at the Caltech in 1972. Bercaw was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991.[5]

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (elected 1990), and he has received several national awards from the American Chemical Society (see below).[6]

His research interests are in synthetic, structural and mechanistic organotransition metal chemistry, including most recently catalysts for polymerization and trimerization of olefins and investigations of hydrocarbon hydroxylation; fundamental transformations and thermodynamics of organotransition metal chemistry; catalysts for hydrocarbon partial oxidation; catalysts for olefin trimerization and polymerization; homogeneous transformations of carbon monoxide and dihydrogen to fuels and chemicals.

Prof. Bercaw has greatly enhanced our understanding of the mechanisms of Ziegler-Natta (ZN) olefin polymerizations. This metal-catalyzed polymerization process is operated on a vast scale and produces, worldwide, over 200 billion pounds of polyolefins per year. Bercaw’s work has led to a fundamental understanding of the detailed mechanisms of chain growth in ZN polymerizations and the factors which control syndio- and isotacticities and the degree of comonomer incorporation in copolymerizations; these variables are critical in determining the physical properties of the resultant polymers and copolymers.

Commercial processes have been based on Bercaw’s discoveries. For example, new and superior ethylene/alpha-olefin copolymers are now industrially produced with titanium catalysts utilizing (η5- C5Me4)SiMe2NCMe3 and related ligands devised in Bercaw’s laboratories. These copolymers have proved to have superior properties. These types of systems have also allowed superior methods for production of ethylene/propylene and ethylene/propylene/diene elastomers.


Year Awards
1980 ACS Award in Pure Chemistry
1990 ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry
1997 ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry
1999 ACS George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry
1999 American Institute of Chemists Chemical Pioneer Award
2000 ACS Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award
2005 Northwestern University - Chemistry Department's Basolo Medal
2008 University of Chicago Chemistry Department Closs Lecturer
2013 Southern California Section of the ACS Tolman Medal
2014 Chicago Section of the ACS Willard Gibbs Award
2017 ACS Gabor A. Somorjai Award for Creative Research in Catalysis


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-10-26. Retrieved 2009-07-15.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Bercaw, John Edward (1971). Titanocene as a reactive intermediate in the reduction of molecular hydrogen and nitrogen (Ph.D.). University of Michigan. OCLC 68280047 – via ProQuest. (Subscription required (help)).
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
  6. ^

External links[edit]