James Gamble Kirkwood Award


2020      Professor John F. Hartwig,  Berkeley College of Chemistry
2018      Professor Charles M. Lieber, Harvard University
2016      Professor Jennifer Doudna, University of California, Berkeley
2013      Professor W. E. Moerner, Stanford University
2010      Professor Peter G. Schultz, Scripps Research Institute
2008      Professor JoAnne Stubbe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2005      Professor Robert H. Grubbs, California Institute of Technology
2002      Dr. Ad Bax, National Institutes of Health
1998      Professor Peter B. Dervan, California Institute of Technology
1996      Professor Ahmed Zewail, California Institute of Technology
1994      Professor John A. Pople, Northwestern University
1991      Professor Ryoji Noyori, Nagoya University (Japan)
1989      Professor Richard R. Ernst, Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, Zurich
1986      Professor Richard N. Zare, Stanford University
1984      Professor Earl Muetterties, University of California, Berkeley
1982      Professor Bruno Zimm, University of California, San Diego
1980      Professor E. J. Corey, Harvard University
1978      Professor F. Albert Cotton, Texas A&M University
1976      Professor Albert Eschenmoser, Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, Zurich
1973      Professor Sune Bergstrom, Karolinska Institut
1971      Professor Paul Flory, Stanford University
1969      Professor Neil Bartlett, University of California, Berkeley
1967      Professor Joseph E. Mayer, University of California, San Diego
1966      Professor Henry Taube, Stanford University
1965      Professor Robert B. Woodward, Harvard University
1964      Professor Robert S. Mulliken, University of Chicago
1963      Professor Manfred Eigen, Max Planck Institut
1962      Professor Lars Onsager, Yale University

About John Gamble Kirkwood And The Kirkwood Award

Excerpted from the remarks of Jerome A. Berson on November 21, 1996

THE KIRKWOOD AWARD celebrates the life and work of John Gamble Kirkwood, 1907-1959, former Sterling Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Department at Yale. Supported by the joint contributions of the New Haven Section of the American Chemical Society and the generosity of dedicated private donors, this award is conferred every two years for “outstanding research contributions, theoretical or experimental, in the physical sciences.”

One way of judging the importance of the Kirkwood Award is to realize the stature of its recipients. Since the award was initiated in 1962, ten of the twenty recipients subsequently have won the Nobel Prize*.

Another measure of the Kirkwood Award is the stature of the man whom it commemorates. His brilliance emerged early: he got his Ph.D. from MIT in 1929, when he was only 22. After several years of postdoctoral research, mostly on his own, he began an academic career at Cornell as an assistant professor. Chicago lured him away for a couple of years, but the Cornell people apparently were able finally to get their act together and brought him back as Todd Professor in 1938. He moved to Caltech as Noyes Professor in 1947, and finally to Yale in 1951.

Kirkwood’s research interests were broad, and his mastery of the field of physical chemistry profound. I offer the following text from the citation for one of the many awards to Kirkwood, the William Clyde Devane Award: “Kirkwood’s scientific explorations ranged from quantum chemistry to biopolymers. His greatest impact derived from his elegant and far-reaching applications of statistical mechanics to condensed systems and his development of methodology for predicting equilibrium and transport properties of solutions.”

Beyond his scholarly interests was Kirkwood’s clear vision of what education in chemistry should be. His arrival here initiated a resurgence of Yale Chemistry. He improved the support for research, democratized the teaching assignments, modernized the system of mentorship of graduate students, and vigorously recruited outstanding faculty. Under his leadership, this department became an active center of chemical education and research. His own powers as a teacher are perhaps best documented by the students he turned out, at least nine of whom became members of the National Academy. Just to calibrate you, I would point out that this is a phenomenal number; among chemists, I believe that the only other mentor to produce that many was R. B. Woodward. Although Kirkwood’s stay at Yale ended all too soon, the goals of excellence he set for us during his eight years here still guide the department’s aspirations.

*As of 2022, twenty-eight recipients and thirteen Nobel Prize winners.