Join AIC

Our Sponsors


























The Chemist













In Memoriam:

Tinker! Tailor!! Soldier!!! Spy!!!! The moniker derived from Le Carre’s famous novel can be easily applied to Professor John D. Roberts, a talented and legendary pioneering chemist, loyal friend, inspiring mentor, sage advisor and a scholar and a gentleman.  He tinkered with sophisticated NMR spectroscopy especially of F-19, C-13 and N-15 and taught legions of chemists how to use this tool to understand structure and mechanism, quantum chemistry, MO theory, non-classical cations, aromatic chemistry and rearrangements He tailored his “benzyne” chemistry to exacting specifications and made far reaching advances in physical organic chemistry. He soldiered at the frontlines in the battle for the professional development of scientists. As a spy, he gleaned intelligence from the “happenings” in science and deciphered the talents of his colleagues for extracting the best from them. He mentored and encouraged women to play their rightful role in Chemistry. He was a revered colleague and a consummate professional par excellence who truly revolutionized the art and science of Organic Chemistry.  Many of learned our Science from his books and writings
I have not had the pleasure of working directly with Professor Roberts but have always been a fan of his tenacity, drive, profoundly intellectual work and keen insights; these have been instrumental in inspiring me. On the personal side, he was a modest and polite individual with an impish sense of humor. Several chemists will always be proud and delighted to call him a friend, teacher and mentor. Uncommon humility was an extremely common virtues with him. Many members of the UCLA and Caltech fraternities were beneficiaries of his grace, generosity and wisdom.
As befits his stature, Jack was the recipient of many international awards, delivered stimulating lectures at several conferences and was always a stimulating presence at others. In 1998 named by “Chemical & Engineering News” named him as one of the 75 most influential chemists in the last 75 years.  I treasure the photograph I had with him at that conference.
A few years ago, I had a brief sojourn at Caltech with Professor Robert H. Grubbs.  I remember Jack coming every day to the Department of Chemistry and conducting research with undergraduate students.  He had an office close to the stairs leading up to Bob Grubbs’ office.  As Grubbs and I were heading up the stairs, we heard a friendly greeting from Jack Roberts; he gently chided Grubbs for not showing up to work on the “last couple of Saturdays”
Oliver Goldsmith once penned the memorable words about a village preacher who was “more skilled to raise the wretched than to rise”.  These words could be well applied to Jack Roberts.  Our profession needs many more like this gentleman and a scholar.
With deepest respect, admiration and gratitude, Mukund