Robert Burns Woodward

Robert Burns Woodward


Robert Burns Woodward was an American organic chemist. He is considered by many to be the preeminent organic chemist of the twentieth century born on April 10, 1917, In U.S.

Family Background:

He was the son of Arthur Chester Woodward and Margaret. His father died of influenza pandemic one year after his birth. Later, his mother remarried. She soon left by her second husband. Thus, Robert was brought up single-handedly by his mother.

Personal Life:

In 1938, He married Irja Pullman. The couple had two daughters, Siiri Anna, and Jean Kirsten. In 1946, He married Eudoxia Muller, was a chemistry researcher and an established artist. They had a daughter, Crystal Elisabeth and one son Eric Richard Arthur. They divorced in 1972.


He had begun his education at a public primary school. Later, He had been admitted to Quincy High School, a public secondary school located in the suburbs of Boston. In 1933, Woodward had entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here, He missed the formal study courses, concentrating only on chemistry. In 1936, He received his B.S degree and had also completed a Ph.D. In 1937.


In summer of 1937, Robert Burns Woodward had begun his career as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Illinois, But within six months, He shifted to the Harvard University as Junior Fellow. He remained with the Harvard University till his death in 1979. Before 1941, He had accepted the position of the Instructor of Chemistry. Around this time, Woodworth published a few important papers on the correlation between ultraviolet spectra and structure. It later led to the formation of the Woodward’s Rules. In 1944, Woolworth had been appointed as an Assistant Professor at the Harvard University. In 1944, He had appointed as an Assistant Professor at the Harvard University. Next, In 1954, He had determined the structure of strychnine and lanosterol and also synthesized these two products. His work on strychnine had been also done under immense international competition. In the 1960s, He had worked as a Consultant for Polaroid’s development of color photographic processes. In 1973, Based on observations made during the B12 synthesis, he and Roald Hoffmann devised rules for elucidating the stereochemistry of the products of organic reactions.

He died on July 8, 1979, from a heart attack in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Robert Burns Woodward

Master Stroke:

  • Synthesizing the complicated coenzyme Vitamin B-12 is another of his major works had Done in collaboration with Albert Eschenmoser of the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, the work is taken as a landmark in the history of organic chemistry.

Awards and Achievements:

  • In 1953, He had been elected to the National Academy of Science.
  • In 1958, He had been elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society, London.
  • In 1965, Robert Burns Woodward had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his outstanding achievements in the art of organic synthesis.

What can we learn from Him??

Like Robert Burns Woodward, Continuously make small improvements and take perfection in your work.

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