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Ronald Breslow Wins AIC Gold Medal

by Linda Wang
June 30, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 26

Credit: Courtesy of Ronald Breslow
Ronald Breslow of Columbia University.
Credit: Courtesy of Ronald Breslow

For his work communicating the creative side of chemistry, Columbia University chemistry professor Ronald Breslow has won the 2014 American Institute of Chemists (AIC) Gold Medal.

Conferred jointly by AIC and the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF), the Gold Medal is AIC’s highest award and recognizes service to the science of chemistry.

“Ronald Breslow combines extraordinary talent in research with a rare ability to tell the story of chemistry to wide and diverse audiences,” says AIC President David M. Manuta.

Among Breslow’s research achievements are the synthesis of the cyclopropenyl cation, discovery of antiaromaticity, and establishment of the mechanism of thiamine (vitamin B-1) action. Breslow has also contributed to cancer research by developing a new group of cytodifferentiating agents for use in chemotherapy.

“This award is particularly meaningful to me because for most of my career I have devoted myself to trying to make sure that the general public, and young students as well, realizes the creative aspects of chemistry and the practical importance of it,” says Breslow, who is University Professor at Columbia and an American Chemical Society past-president. “There’s still a huge amount to be done in the areas of energy, medicine, and materials. Chemists have the ability and the training to find solutions to our needs and our problems.”

Breslow earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Harvard University in 1955. After a stint as a postdoc at Cambridge University, he joined the Columbia faculty in 1956.

In 1996, while serving as ACS president, Breslow published his widely known book “Chemistry Today and Tomorrow: The Central, Useful, and Creative Science,” which explores chemistry’s contributions to everyday life.

He is a past recipient of the ACS Priestley Medal (1999), the U.S. National Medal of Science (1991), and many other accolades. ACS has a national award in his name, the Ronald Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry.



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