The Theodore William Richards Medal Award for Conspicuous Achievement in any area of Chemistry honors the U.S.’s first chemistry Nobel Laureate and is given every two years by the ACS Northeastern Section. This Medal Award was established in 1928, the year of the death of Richards. The Award Ceremony is usually held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the March meeting of the Northeastern Section.
The Committee Chair will place an announcement for the call for nominations into the Nucleus (editorial deadline: July 15) and C&E News in August. The Chair will also contact the Chemistry Departments at the top 40 to 50 U.S. academic institutions, the ACS technical divisions, and the ACS local sections in order to solicit nominations.
Nomination packages, consisting of a brief (no more than 5 pages) curriculum vitae for the nominee, a clear and concise (no more than 2 pages) nomination letter that outlines the candidate’s “conspicuous achievements in chemistry” on which the nomination is based, and an optional one-page supporting letter, should be submitted electronically as a single PDF file to the NESACS Administrative Secretary (email@example.com).
Nomination packages have a 4-year total life (2 nomination cycles). Nominators who wish their unsuccessful nominee to be a candidate for a second selection cycle must submit a letter indicating their intent to re-nominate the candidate a second time and submit a one-page update that describes the nominee’s activities in the two-year time period following the original nomination.
As new or updated nominations are received, nominators will be sent an acknowledgment of receipt of the award nomination or update.
The deadline for receipt of new or updated nominations is October 31, 2023.
The 2024 Award will be presented at the March 2024 NESACS Monthly Meeting.
Awarding the Theodore William Richards Medal and Award.
- The awarding of the Theodore William Richards Medal shall be the charge of a special committee of seven members: four elected by the membership of the Northeastern Section, two appointed ACS members who are not members of the Northeastern Section, and the Editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
- The Award Committee shall have full power to choose the recipient, and its choice shall be final.
- The Theodore William Richards Medal Award shall be given for conspicuous achievement in any area of chemistry.
- The award shall not be made more often than once every two years, except under unusual conditions.
- The recipient shall appear in person to receive the medal and deliver an address (or read a paper) about his/her work.
Who was Theodore William Richards?
These short remarks are intended to put into context the extraordinary person, Theodore William Richards, whom we in the Northeastern Section honor with the Theodore William Richards Medal Award.
Theodore William Richards was the first American to receive a Nobel prize in chemistry and just the second American scientist to do so – Michaelson was the first. Richards won for his careful determination of the atomic weight of 25 elements including those used as a primary standard from which other weights were determined. His careful work showed that the mass of Co was correct – opening the way for arranging the table not by mass but by atomic number – laying the groundwork for the efforts of Henry Moseley.
Richards students went on to determine the mass of another 33 elements – Remarkably about half the periodic table due to the direct or indirect efforts of a single person. It is for this weighty contribution that he won the 1914 Noble Prize in chemistry.
Richards was born in 1868 – so was just one year old at the time of the Karlsruhe conference that is widely recognized as the birth of the periodic table. It can be said that the table and Richards grew up together. He was the son of a painter and a poet. He was home schooled, receiving his first chemistry set at the age of 12. He quickly blossomed and entered Haverford College at 14 – not as a Freshman – but as a Sophomore. In 1886, at the age of 18, he received a second Bachelor’s degree – summa cum laude – from Harvard. At the age of 20, he received his PhD also from Harvard for showing that the H/O weight ratio in water is 2:15.869 – well below the 2:16 expected. This paved the way for understanding of isotopes, the issue involved in cobalt’s placement in the table.
After a stint in Europe, he returned to Harvard and rose through the ranks from instructor to full professor.
He was also recognized with:
• the Davy Medal (1910) from Royal Society of London
• The Faraday Lectureship Prize (1911) from Royal Society of London
• The Willard Gibbs Award (1912) from the Chicago Section
• The Franklin Medal (1916) by the Franklin Institute
The Northeastern Section established the Theodore Richards Medal Award in 1928 – first it awarded in 1932 – posthumously to Richards. That makes this the 90th annaversary of the award.
The award is conferred no more often than every two years; today’s award is the 46th award. It has only been won once before by a woman.
Past winners include many who have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, including:
- Linus C. Pauling
- Melvin Calvin
- Robert B. Woodard
- Robert S. Mulliken
- Lars Onsager
- William H. Stein
- Stanford Moore
- Henry Taube
- Rudolph A. Marcus
- K. Barry Sharpless (twice)
Written by Mary Jane Shultz
2022 Theodore William Richards Medal selection committee
2021 Theodore Richards Award Winner
Northeastern Section, American Chemical Society
Jacqueline K. Barton, the John G. Kirkwood and Arthur A. Noyes Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, will receive the 2021 Theodore Williams Richards Award and Medal for Conspicuous Achievement in Chemistry from the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society.
The awards ceremony will take place during the NESACS monthly meeting on Thursday, March 10, 2022, at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. Dr. Barton will be the 46th recipient of the biennial award, which was established in 1928. The award and its accompanying medal honors the first U.S. winner of the chemistry Nobel Prize in Chemistry; other recipients of this prestigious honor include 11 Nobel Laureates and other scientific luminaries.
Among Dr. Barton’s outstanding achievements is her pioneering application of transition metal complexes to probe the recognition and reactions of double helical DNA. Significantly, through the use of her metal complexes, she has carried out studies that elucidate electron transfer chemistry that involves the DNA double helix, and have shown that this chemistry is a powerful means for long range DNA-mediated signaling. The work has provided a basis for the development of sensitive nucleic acid sensors, as well as for understanding the chemistry underlying DNA damage, repair, and replication. Dr. Barton has been a dedicated mentor, and has trained more than 100 postdoctoral associates and students. Many women and men from her laboratory have moved into prominent positions in academia and industry. As a result of this research, she has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Alan T. Waterman Award from NSF, the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. She has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Medicine. In 2011, Dr. Barton received the 2010 National Medal of Science from President Obama, and, in 2015, received the ACS Priestley Medal.
Jacqueline K. Barton, the John G. Kirkwood and Arthur A. Noyes Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA. Topic of Richards Medal Award Address: Signaling through DNA.
Chad Mirkin, Director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology and the George B. Rathmann Prof. of Chemistry, Prof. of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Prof. of Biomedical Engineering, Prof. of Materials Science & Engineering, and Prof. of Medicine at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Topic of Richards Medal Award Address: Rational Vaccinology: In Pursuit of the Perfect Vaccine.
Gabor A. Somorjai, University Professor Professor of the Graduate School at University of California Berkeley; Faculty Senior Scientist in the Materials Sciences Division, and Group Leader of the Surface Science and Catalysis Program at the Center for Advanced Materials, at the E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA. Topic of Richards Medal Award Address: The Surface Science Approach to Molecular Catalysis. Transition from Studies of Crystal Surfaces in Vacuum to High Pressure and Liquid Phase Heterogeneous, Homogeneous and Enzyme Nanoparticle Catalysis.
Harry B. Gray, Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry; Founding Director, Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA. Topic of Richards Medal Award Address: Solar-Driven Water Splitting.
Tobin Jay Marks, Vladimir N. Ipatieff Professor of Catalytic Chemistry, Professor of Material Science and Engineering, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Professor of Applied Physics at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.
Richard N. Zare, Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science and Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, Stanford, CA. Topic of Richards Medal Award Address: Theodore W. Richards Redux: Determining Isotope Ratios without Mass Spectrometers.
Robert G. Bergman, Professor of the Graduate School and Gerald E. K. Branch Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, CA. Topic of Richards Medal Award Address: Selective Organic and Organometallic Transformations Mediated by Molecular and Supramolecular Environments.
Richard R. Schrock, Frederick G. Keyes Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. Topic of Richards Medal Award Address: Catalytic Reduction of Dinitrogen to Ammonia at Room Temperature and One Atmosphere.
John Ross, Camille and Henry Dreyfus Profesor of Chemistry at Stanford University, Stanford, CA. Topic of Richards Medal Award Address: Biochemical Reaction Mechanisms: Determination and Synthesis.
Stephen J. Lippard, Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry and Head of the Chemistry Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. Topic of Richards Medal Award Address: Three Avenues in Bioinorganic Chemistry: Cisplatin, Methane Monoxygenase, and Metalloneurochemistry.
Mostafa A. El-Sayed, Regents’ Emeritus Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA.
K. Barry Sharpless, W.M. Keck Professor of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute, San Diego, CA.
JoAnne Stubbe, Novartis Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.
Richard H. Holm, Higgins Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
John S. Waugh, Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. (Link to In Memorium, a pioneer in the field of high resolution solid state NMR)
Rudolph A. Marcus, Arthur A. Noyes Professor of Chemistry at California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.
Walter H. Stockmayer, Albert W. Smith Professor Emeritus at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.
- More info at the Science History Institute. Recognized as one of the twentieth century pioneers of polymer science.
F. Albert Cotton, W.T. Doherty-Welch Foundation Chair and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Texas A&M University, College Station, TX. (Link for obituary)
Ronald C. D. Breslow, University Professor at Columbia University, New York, NY. (Link for obituary)
- President of the ACS in 1996.
John D. Roberts, Institute Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA. (Link for obituary)
Henry Taube, Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor of Chemistry, Stanford University, Stanford, CA. (Link for obituary)
Edgar Bright Wilson, Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
- E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy at the ACS is named in his honor.
- More info at the Science History Institute
Frank H. Westheimer, Morris Loeb Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (Link for obituary)
- More info at the Science History Institute
Henry Eyring, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Metallurgy, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT (Link for In Memoriam)
- President of the ACS in 1963.
Stanford Moore, Professor of Biochemistry, The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, Rockefeller University, New York, NY
William Howard Stein, Professor of Biochemistry, The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, Rockefeller University, New York, NY
- 1972 Nobel Prize in Chemistry recipients, (Drs. Moore and Stein were co-recipients, for the first determination of the complete amino acid sequence of ribonuclease.)
William von Eggers Doering, Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (Link for In Memoriam)
- More info at the Science History Institute
George Bogdan Kistiakowsky, Professor of Physical Chemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (Link for obituary)
- More info at the Harvard Library, member of the Manhattan Project.
Paul Doughty Bartlett, Erving Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (Link for obituary)
Lars Onsager, J. Willard Gibbs Professor of Theoretical Chemistry, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Saul Winstein, Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, CA (Link for In Memoriam)
Robert Sanderson Mulliken, Ernest de Witt Burton Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Robert Burns Woodward, Morris Loeb Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (Link for In Memoriam)
- 1965 Nobel Prize in Chemistry recipient, the preeminent organic chemist of the twentieth century.
Melvin Calvin, Professor of Chemistry, Founder and Director of the Laboratory of Chemical Biodynamics, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
- 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry recipient, for the discovery of the Calvin cycle, photosynthetic carbon reduction (PCR) cycle of photosynthesis. President of the ACS in 1971.
George Scatchard, Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. (Link for obituary)
Morris Selig Kharasch, Professor of Chemistry, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL (Founder of the Journal of Organic Chemistry in 1936.)
John Gamble Kirkwood, Arthur A. Noyes Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA (later Sterling Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Chemistry Department at Yale University).
- The Kirkwood Award at the New Haven Section of the ACS is named in his honor.
Edwin Joseph Cohn, Professor of Biological Chemistry at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
- More info at the Science History Institute, “directed research efforts to develop methods for separating human blood plasma into different components for clinical use in the Armed Forces […] to treat soldiers suffering from shock” during World War II.
Linus Carl Pauling, Chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.
- 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry recipient and 1962 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, one of the founders of the fields of quantum chemistry and molecular biology. Awarded the Peace Prize “for his opposition to weapons of mass destruction”. President of the ACS in 1949.
Roger Adams, Professor and Chair of Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL. (Link for In Memoriam, developer of the Adams’ catalyst.)
- Roger Adams Award in Organic Chemistry at the ACS is named in his honor. President of the ACS in 1935.
Frederick George Keyes, Professor of Physical Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.
Claude Silbert Hudson, Professor of Chemistry, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.
- Claude S. Hudson Award for outstanding contributions to carbohydrate chemistry in education, research, or applications at the ACS Division of Carbohydrate Chemistry is named in his honor.
Gilbert Newton Lewis, Dean of the College of Chemistry, University of California Berkeley, Berkely, CA.
- More info at the Science History Institute. Chair of NESACS in 1908. Best known for his discovery of the covalent bond and his concept of electron pairs and famous to today’s chemistry students for his theory of acids and bases, so named “Lewis acids and bases”. Made many contributions to chemical thermodynamics, photochemistry, and isotope separation. Also undertook research in the areas of relativity and quantum physics, and is attributed with coining the term “photon”.
Charles August Kraus, Professor of Chemistry, Brown University. Providence, RI. (Link for In Memoriam, consultant to the Manhattan Project)
- President of the ACS in 1939.
Gregory Paul Baxter, Theodore William Richards Professor at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. (Link for obituary)
Arthur Amos Noyes, Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.
- More info at the Science History Institute. President of the ACS in 1904.
- He was the first chair of NESACS in 1898 while a professor at MIT (left for Caltech in 1920). A professorship at Caltech is named after him. President of the ACS in 1904.
Theodore William Richards (Posthumously), Erwing Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Who We Are
Malika Jeffries-EL, Chair
Katherine A. Mirica
Richard N. Zare, Past Winner
Editor in Chief, Journal of the American Chemical Society
2023 ACS President