As a co-recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Dudley Herschbach was cited for "providing a much more detailed understanding of how chemical reactions take place". Using molecular beams, he studied elementary reactions such as K + CH3I and K + Br2, where it became possible to correlate reaction dynamics with the electronic structures of reactants and products. Exchanges proceeded through a persistent complex that lasted for many rotational periods, with product angular distributions reflecting the degree of reagent entanglement. Later this work was extended to H + Cl2, Cl + HI, halogen substitution reactions with vinyl and allyl halides, as well as such systems as Xe + Ar2 → XeAr + Ar. Herschbach has been a pioneer in the measurement and theoretical interpretation of vector properties of reaction dynamics, a field known as "molecular stereodynamics".
Herschbach was born in San Jose, California and studied at Stanford and Harvard. After a period on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley (1959-1963) he returned to Harvard where he is currently Baird Professor of Science and, in addition to research, teaches a very popular freshman chemistry course. Among his many honors are the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry (1965), the Irving Langmuir Prize of the American Physical Society (1983) and the National Medal of Science (1991).
Location in chemistry building:
Basement Floor; Elevator area East Wall; Sequence 4