William Sage Rapson

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William S. Rapson
Born (1912-08-14)14 August 1912
Kaihu, Northland, New Zealand
Died 25 June 1999(1999-06-25) (aged 86)
Residence Flag of South Africa.svg South Africa
Nationality Flag of New Zealand.svg New Zealand
Fields Chemistry
Institutions Auckland University College,
University of Oxford,
University of Cape Town
Alma mater Auckland University College,
University of Oxford,
Doctoral advisor Robert Robinson
Known for Rapson-Robinson synthesis

William Sage Rapson (14 August 1912 – 25 June 1999) was a New Zealand and South African chemist.

Rapson studied at Auckland University College as a Junior University Scholar, Senior University Scholar, Duffus Lubecki Scholar and lastly Sir George Grey Scholar. In 1933 he became lecturer in chemistry at the University College. The following year he went to study organic chemistry in Oxford with Professor (later Sir) Robert Robinson. He developed the Rapson-Robinson synthesis (steroids), while completing his thesis in 1935 at the age of 23. He was then appointed lecturer in organic chemistry at the University of Cape Town (1935–41).

In 1946 he became Professor designate of Chemistry after having been a Senior Lecturer. He was the first director of the National Chemical Research Laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria. In 1958 he was promoted to Vice-President of CSIR. He was then appointed Research Advisor to the Transvaal and Orange Free State Chamber of Mines, later the Chamber of Mines of South Africa. In 1978 WS Rapson wrote the book ‘Gold Usage’ in collaboration with Dr Theo Groenewald.


  • Rapson, William Sage; Robinson, Robert (1935). "307. Experiments on the synthesis of substances related to the sterols. Part II. A new general method for the synthesis of substituted cyclohexenones". Journal of the Chemical Society (Resumed): 1285. doi:10.1039/JR9350001285. 
  • Rapson, W. S. and Groenewald, T. (1978) Gold Usage. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-581250-7.


  • Raub, Christoph J (1999). "Appreciation: Dr William S Rapson (1912 – 1999) A very versatile scientist". Gold Bulletin. 32 (4): 111. doi:10.1007/BF03214795. 
  • Austin, Brian (2001) Schonland – Scientist and Soldier, IOPP, Bristol, ISBN 0-7503-0501-0