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 Anna Singer (email@example.com), NESACS Administrative Secretary.
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, 2021.
The 2021 Award will be presented at the March 2022 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:
- G. N. Lewis
- Linus Pauling
- Robert Mulliken
- E. B. Wilson
- Ronald Breslow
- Rudy Markus
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
Gabor A. Somorjai
Harry B. Gray
Tobin Jay Marks, Northwestern University
Richard N. Zare
Robert G. Bergman
Richard R. Schrock
Stephen J. Lippard
Mostafa A. El-Sayed
K. Barry Sharpless
Richard H. Holm
John F. Waugh
Rudolph A. Marcus
Walter H. Stockmayer
F. Albert Cotton
Ronald C. D. Breslow
John D. Roberts
Edgar Bright Wilson
Frank H. Westheimer
William Howard Stein
William vonEggers Doering
George Bogdan Kistiakowsky
Paul Doughty Bartlett
Robert Sanderson Mulliken
Robert Burns Woodward
Morris Selig Kharasch
John Gamble Kirkwood
Edwin Joseph Cohn
Frederick George Keyes
Claude Silbert Hudson
Gilbert Newton Lewis
Charles August Kraus
Gregory Paul Baxter
Arthur Amos Noyes
Theodore William Richards (Posthumously)
Who We Are
Mary Jane Shultz, Chair
Richard N. Zare, Past Winner
Erick Carreira, Editor in Chief
Journal of the American Chemical Society
Angela K. Wilson
ACS President and head of the chemistry division at NSF