Posted June 30, 2008
COLUMBIA, MO - M. Frederick Hawthorne’s life work has made him one of the giants in the nano and molecular medicine field. Hawthorne, director of the University of Missouri International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine and pioneer in boron chemistry, will receive the 2009 Priestley Medal for his achievements in the field of chemistry. The award is the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) highest honor and recognizes distinguished service in the field of chemistry. The ACS, with 160,000 members, is the world’s largest professional society.
“I am elated to receive this recognition,” Hawthorne said. “I am very lucky to have been at the right place at the right time to begin work on clarifying the chemistry of boron, one of the most versatile elements.”
When Hawthorne started his 60-year career working with boron, little was known about the element. His assumption that boron could be used in ways similar to carbon enabled him to create a diverse collection of boranes, which are compounds of boron and hydrogen, and spinoff compounds. He discovered uses for these compounds in applications such as medical imaging, drug delivery, neutron-based treatments for cancers and rheumatoid arthritis, catalysis and molecular motors. One of his significant achievements is the creation of a specific type of nanoparticle that selectively targets cancer cells for boron neutron capture therapy.
“Fred has expressed his creativity over and over again in chemistry,” said Sir Fraser Stoddart, a former colleague and a Northwestern University professor. “To many scientists the world over, he has become Mr. Inorganic Chemistry, a legend in his time.”
Hawthorne attended the Missouri University of Science and Technology from 1944 to 1947, which was then known as the Missouri School of Mines. He received his undergraduate degree from Pomona College in 1949 and his doctorate degree in physical-organic chemistry from the University of California-Los Angeles in 1953. He began to synthesize and study boranes in 1956 while working at Rohm and Haas, one of the largest manufacturers of specialty chemicals. He has held professorships at the University of California-Riverside, UCLA and MU. He also was a long-term editor of Inorganic Chemistry, an international journal published by the ACS. Hawthorne came to MU in 2006 to become the director of the International Institute of Nano & Molecular Medicine. He has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1973 and has won many other awards and honors, including the 2003 King Faisal Prize in Science presented in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“The Priestley Award is a wonderful award to recognize one of the giants of inorganic chemistry,” said Richard Eisenberg, a chemistry professor at the University of Rochester who succeeded Hawthorne as editor-in-chief of Inorganic Chemistry in 2001. “It’s rare for a chemist to create a field of research and excel in it the way that Hawthorne has done with boron, and he continues to exhibit the incredible enthusiasm for science that serves to make him a great force in chemistry.”
The award, which consists of a gold medal and certificate, will be presented to Hawthorne at the time of his Priestley address to members at the Spring 2009 American Chemical Society meeting. The address will describe the work for which he is being recognized, as well as current research activities at MU.