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Bruce (B. R.) Rickborn

by Susan J. Ainsworth
July 5, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 27

Bruce (B. R.) Rickborn, 75, a professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara, died of cancer on April 27.

Born in New Brunswick, N.J., Rickborn received a B.A. from UC Riverside in 1956 and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from UCLA in 1960, under Donald Cram. He then accepted a two-year visiting assistant professorship at UC Berkeley before joining the chemistry department at UC Santa Barbara.

Rickborn’s research focused on the addition of organocuprates to epoxides, hydride additions to enones, the chemistry of isobenzofurans, and aryne cycloaddition chemistry. The widely used transformation of epoxides to allylic alcohols using dialkylamide bases was developed independently in Rickborn’s laboratory, and in the lab of Jack Crandall at Indiana University, and is referred to as the Rickborn-Crandall reaction.

At UC Santa Barbara, Rickborn also served as the associate provost in the College of Creative Studies and as dean of the College of Letters & Science. He retired in 2001.

During his career, he received an Alfred P. Sloan fellowship; a National Science Foundation senior postdoctoral fellowship for study at Max Planck Institute, in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany; and a Fulbright lectureship in chemistry at National University of Colombia, in Bogotá. He also served on the board of the Journal of Organic Chemistry. Rickborn was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1957.

In 2008, Rickborn’s former graduate student Ross Johnson established the Bruce Rickborn-Ross Johnson Endowed Graduate Fellowship at UC Santa Barbara.

Rickborn traveled, honed his painting and wine appreciation skills, and supported many local organizations.

He is survived by his wife, Ida; son, Steven; and two grandchildren.



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