William Gould Young

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William Gould Young
Young in 1960
BornJuly 30, 1902
DiedJuly 5, 1980(1980-07-05) (aged 77)
Other namesBill Young
Scientific career
FieldsOrganic chemistry
Doctoral studentsJohn D. Roberts

William Gould Young (July 30, 1902 – July 5, 1980) was an American physical organic chemist and professor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He served as vice chancellor at UCLA for 13 years, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. The chemistry building at UCLA bears his name.[1]


Young was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and attended Colorado College, graduating with a BA in 1924 and a master's degree in 1925.[1] He worked with H.A. Spoehr at the Carnegie Institution for Science before enrolling at the California Institute of Technology to pursue his doctorate in physical organic chemistry under the direction of Howard J. Lucas. Young served as a National Research Council postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University for one year, before joining the faculty at UCLA, where he would remain for his entire career (through 1970).[2]



Young's research interests centered on molecular rearrangements of allyl groups, including higher-order allyl groups such as crotyl, prenyl, and various allyl organometallic reagents. In a series of over 30 subsequent publications, Young examined rate constants, substitution preference, stereochemistry, and alternate reaction sites of allyl transfers.[3] He also collaborated with student groups to develop glassware and lab tools, for instance the ubiquitous glass helices found in fractionation columns used to separate isomeric volatiles.[4]

Perhaps Young's longest legacy – apart from his 130 research publications – was serving as the doctoral advisor to chemist and nuclear magnetic resonance pioneer John D. Roberts.[1]


Young was appointed dean of physical sciences at UCLA in 1948, serving in this capacity until 1957. He was named vice chancellor for Planning from 1957 until his retirement in 1970.[2]


Young was revered as a master educator and mentor. He devoted his entire Priestley Medal address to issues of chemical education, given increasing pressures from post-World War II research enterprise expansion, increased student enrollment in the sciences, and the rapid adoption of newer analytical instrumentation – NMR, mass spectrometry, HPLC, infrared spectroscopy, among others – into undergraduate curricula. He pointed out the inherent paradox in his "crossroads" analogy: as technology enabled deeper study of quantitative chemical data, it also called for reducing hours spent in chemistry so candidates could broaden their study into related fields such as botany, zoology, or molecular biology.[5]

Personal life[edit]

At 24, Bill Young married Helen Graybeal; they would remain married until his death in 1980. Their interests, according to Young's memorial, included golf, travel, and UCLA athletics games.[2]

Awards and honors[edit]

According to the memorial written to Young by his colleagues on the UCLA Chemistry oral history, he received honorary degrees [LLD or DS] from Colorado College, University of Colorado Boulder, University of the Pacific (United States), and UCLA.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs V. 73, pp. 365–379 (1998), accessed August 5, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e Blacet, Francis (June 30, 1982). "A Half Century in Chemistry at UCLA, 1932–1982" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  3. ^ Webb, Irving D.; Young, William G. (1951). "Allylic Rearrangements. XXIX. Relative Tendencies of Nucleophilic Substitution in Organic Halides". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 73 (2): 777–779. doi:10.1021/ja01146a084.
  4. ^ Young, William G.; Jasaitis, Zene (1936-02-01). "The Preparation of Glass Helices for Use in Fractionating Columns". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 58 (2): 377. doi:10.1021/ja01293a506. ISSN 0002-7863.
  5. ^ a b "Is Chemical Education at the Crossroads?". Chemical & Engineering News. 46 (16): 82–85. 1968. doi:10.1021/cen-v046n016.p082.
  6. ^ "Young is Priestley Medalist". Chemical & Engineering News Archive. 45 (31): 56–60. 1967-07-24. doi:10.1021/cen-v045n031.p056. ISSN 0009-2347.
  7. ^ "George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  8. ^ "Tolman Award Dinner honoring Professor Jeffrey I. Zink | UCLA Chemistry and Biochemistry". www.chemistry.ucla.edu. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  9. ^ "William Young". www.nasonline.org. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  10. ^ "History of the Division". ACS Division of Organic Chemistry. Retrieved 2018-12-17.