Nobel Prize Award for Chemistry 1976 to 1977

About the Nobel Prize Award for Chemistry from 1976 to 1977 including the scientists Lipscomb and Prigogine, their works, and history.


1976 William N. Lipscomb, Jr. (1919- ), American

Work: Determined the structure of boranes and their reactions under various conditions, thus providing new insights into the nature of chemical bonding

Nobel Laureate: Born in Cleveland and educated at the University of Kentucky and the California Institute of Technology, Lipscomb rose through the professional ranks of the University of Minnesota for 13 years before joining the Harvard faculty in 1959. Although borane research took up much of his early career, recently he has turned to the study of large proteins. The lanky laureate lives in Belmont, Mass. A talented musician, he plays the clarinet for a chamber music group and loves to sit in on living room jam sessions with his son on French horn and his daughter on cello. Tennis keeps him fit.

Nobel Lore: Champagne corks flew in Harvard's Gibbs Chemistry Lab when the news from Stockholm hit the Cambridge campus, as students and faculty alike toasted the new laureate. As for Lipscomb, he was flabbergasted. "I knew I had written a lot of nice papers about boranes," he admitted, "but I never actually knew that anyone read them. In science, when you're working on highly original research, the only thing you worry about is not falling flat on your face in your next publication." The $160,000 prize ended, or at least interrupted. organic chemistry's long domination of the awards. The American sweep of the prizes in 1976 led some to speculate that the newly installed pro-West government in Stockholm had twisted a few arms on the Nobel committee to honor the U.S. in this. its bicentennial year. So widespread were the rumors that Sune Bergstrom, chairman of the Nobel Foundation, felt compelled to deny the charge in his opening address at the December ceremony.

1977 Ilya Prigogine (1917- ), Belgian (b. Russia)

Work: Formulation of the theory of dissipative structures, which explains how molecules are able to evolve from a state of utter disorder to one of order

Nobel Laureate: Born in Moscow on the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution, Prigogine began a career as a concert pianist but cut it short to study chemistry at the Free University of Brussels. Since 1947 he has been a chemistry professor at the Free University. Concurrently, he is director of the Center for Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics at the University of Texas and also serves as a consultant to General Motors. He was the first to explain how amino acids and proteins can get their molecular behavior together to form, say, a spider. The rather short, thickset chemist speaks fluent French. Russian, and English. Residing in Brussels, he enjoys music and the arts. An unusual hobby which he has pursued since childhood is the study of world transportation. At age 10, he memorized European railroad schedules and has been fascinated by travel ever since. In fact, railway executives have hired him to advise them on how best to alter their timetables with the least disruption in service.

Nobel Lore: A confident man, Prigogine claims he fully expected to win the $145,000 prize.

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