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William Lipscomb, chemistry Nobel Laureate, dies

lipscomb.jpgWilliam Lipscomb, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on chemical bonding, died last week.

Lipscomb was born in Cleveland in 1919 and won the 1976 Nobel in chemistry for “studies on the structure of boranes illuminating problems of chemical bonding”. His work helped elucidate the bonding between boron and hydrogen atoms in borane compounds, detailed in his Science paper, The Boranes and Their Relatives.

“Our research in the boranes and their related molecular species crosses areas of inorganic, experimental physical, theoretical, and organic chemistry, and includes applications in biochemistry,” he wrote in that paper. “More simply stated, the area is the study of the relationships of molecular structure to function.”

Roald Hoffman, formerly a student of Lipscomb and now a Cornell University lecturer, told AP, “He was a great mentor, letting us work freely, yet continually putting before us puzzles to be explained. From him I learned of the importance of paying attention to experiment for a theoretician, as I was. And not to be afraid of the complexity of the real world.”

According to a statement from Harvard, Lipscomb died in Cambridge of pneumonia and other complications from a fall. He was 91.

Image: wikipedia.


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