S.L. Mitchill Professor of Chemistry and University Professor
Department of Chemistry Columbia University, New York
Selected Honors & Awards:
- 2010 SCI Perkin Medal, Chemical Heritage Foundation
- 2006 Paul Gassman Medal, American Chemical Society
- 2004 Willard Gibbs Award
- 2003 Welch Award in Chemistry
- 2002 Bader Award in Bioorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry
- 1999 Priestley Medal, American Chemical Society
- 1996 President of the American Chemical Society
- 1991 U.S. National Medal of Science
- 1990 Paracelsus Award, Swiss Chemical Society
Ronald Breslow was born in Rahway, New Jersey on March 14, 1931. He received his undergraduate and graduate training at Harvard University, where he did his Ph.D. research with Professor R.B. Woodward. After a year as a postdoctoral fellow with Lord Todd at Cambridge University, he joined Columbia University in 1956 as Instructor in Chemistry. He is now the Samuel Latham Mitchill Professor of Chemistry at Columbia and one of twelve University Professors.
Throughout an accomplished career, Professor Breslow has designed, synthesized, and studied new molecules having interesting properties. Seminal studies on the mechanism of vitamin B1, preparation of the cyclopropenyl cation as the simplest aromatic system, and investigations establishing the phenomenon of anti-aromaticity illustrate the breadth and scope of his achievements. In recent years, his focus has shifted more to the preparation of molecules that imitate enzymatic reactions. This work has included the development of remote functionalization reactions, exploitation of the hydrophobic effect to speed organic reactions in water, and the design of artificial enzymes. Indeed, Professor Breslow is regarded as a pioneer in biomimetic chemistry, a field that seeks – in his own words – “to learn how to imitate the chemistry of life but using new chemistry.” These efforts have opened many new pathways in chemical research, including the creation of potent cytodifferentiating agents to fight cancer.
Professor Breslow has published over 400 scientific papers and, in 1996, a book entitled Chemistry Today and Tomorrow. Recognition of his signal research accomplishments has taken the form of many honors, awards, fellowships, and honorary memberships in national and international scientific academies. He is on the Editorial Board of numerous scientific journals, and has held over 150 named and visiting lectureships. Finally, he served as president of the American Chemical Society in 1996. As this record attests, Professor Ronald Breslow is an extraordinarily gifted scientist, and an eloquent spokesperson for the public image and relevance of chemistry in society today.