Woodward, Robert Burns

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Woodward, Robert Burns,

1917–80, American chemist and educator, b. Boston, grad. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (S.B., 1936; Ph.D., 1937). He taught at Harvard from 1938, becoming Donner professor of science there in 1960. He was one of the first to determine the structure of such organic chemical compounds as penicillin (1945), strychnine (1947), terramycin (1952), and aureomycin (1952). Woodward is best known for his chemical synthesis of the organic substances quinine (1944), patulin (1950), cholesterol (1951), cortisone (1951), strychnine, lysergic acid, lanosterol (1954), reserpine (1956), chlorophyll (1960), and tetracycline (1962). For this work in organic synthesis he was awarded the 1965 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Woodward, Robert Burns


Born Apr. 10, 1917, in Boston, Mass. American organic chemist. Member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Woodward graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1936. In 1937 he began working at Harvard University, becoming a professor in 1950. Woodward synthesized complex and biologically important organic compounds, including quinine (1944), cortisone (1951), reserpine (1956), chlorophyll (1960), and tetracycline (1962). He also determined the structure of many important natural compounds, among them, strychnine, Terramycin, Aureomycin, Magnamycin, and tetrodoxin. Woodward carried out a number of important investigations on the mechanism of organic reactions. He received the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his work on the synthesis of biologically important organic compounds.


Bartlett, P. D., and F. H. Westheimer. “Robert Burns Woodward, Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1965.” Science, 1965, vol. 150, no. 3696, pp. 585-87.
Musso, H. “Robert Burns Woodward.” Chemie fur Labor und Betrieb, 1965, vol. 16, no. 12, pp. 489-90.
Todd, L. “R. B. Woodward: Synthesis to Perfection.” New Scientist, 1965, vol. 28, no. 467, pp. 253-54.
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