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A Celebration of Chemistry's Claim to Fame

Photos reprinted with permission, ©The Nobel Foundation.

At a ceremony in the Chemistry Building last Thursday afternoon, the popular place to study known as The Pit was transformed into the new Alumni and Faculty Nobel Hall of Fame. Larger-than-life portraits were unveiled of six Nobelists who have all been affiliated with the Department of Chemistry over the past several decades.

Two of the honorees collaborated at Penn on the work for which they shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Dr. Alan G. MacDiarmid, the Blanchard Professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Hideki Shirakawa who had been a postdoctoral research associate at Penn, 1976-77. Dr. MacDiarmid and Dr. Shirakawa, along with Dr. Alan Heeger, then a professor of physics at Penn, discovered and developed a new form of organic polymer that conducts electricity (Almanac October 17, 2000).

The honorees also include two alumni who earned their bachelor's degree in chemistry at Penn: the recipient of the 1985 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Dr. Michael S. Brown who received his B.S. in Chemistry in 1962 and who also earned his M.D. at Penn in 1966, and Dr. Stanley B. Prusiner, the winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine, who took his A.B. (cum laude) in Chemistry in 1964 and his M.D. at Penn in 1968. The late Dr. Christian B. Anfinsen, winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, took his M.S. in Chemistry in 1939 before going on for his Ph.D. at Harvard. Dr. Ahmed H. Zewail, the 1999 Nobelist in Chemistry, took his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1974 under the tutelage of Dr. Robin Hochstrasser.

President Judith Rodin payed homage to the "six extraordinary scientists" who had the "courage to push ahead with difficult experiments, even against stiff resistance from an often skeptical scientific community."

SAS Dean Samuel Preston said that the achievements of these six individuals over three decades is the result of a nurturing environment--a testament to Penn's longstanding commitment to excellence in teaching and research.

The Nobelist who recently received the Order of New Zealand--Sir Alan MacDiarmid-- addressed all of those gathered as "fellow students" saying that "we are all learning; when you stop learning, you start dying." He said that this event is not only a recognition of the six persons, and the chemistry department, but also Penn's administration. "Science is people," he stressed, adding "first class faculty attract first class students." Although this is his 46th year on the Penn faculty, last semester Dr. MacDiarmid graciously taught a freshman seminar, said Dean Preston.

Nobel Laureates in Chemistry’s New Alumni and Faculty Hall of Fame

Above, gathering after unveiling the portraits, (from left to right) Dr. P. Roy Vagelos,
Dr. Alan MacDiarmid, President Judith Rodin, Provost Robert Barchi, SAS Dean Samuel Preston, School of Medicine Dean Arthur Rubenstein and Chemistry Chair Dr. Hai-Lung Dai, look at the wall opposite the portraits which Dr. Dai noted, “provides ample space for future Nobelists’ portraits to join these.” (CLICK HERE for more about these Nobel laureates.)

Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 20, January 29, 2002


January 29, 2002
Volume 48 Number 20

A celebration of Chemistry's claim to fame puts the spotlight on six Nobel laureates who have been affiliated with Penn's proud Chemistry Department.
A memorial service for Dr. Jonathan Rhoads will be held next week.
A memorial fund for Dr. Alvin Rubinstein will support excellence in teaching by a graduate student in political science.
The newly appointed Minority Equity Committee begins its work this semester.
The W-2 Form for 2001 is dissected, box by box.
February AT PENN, a musical month.