Fred Basolo
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April 9, 2001
Volume 79, Number 15
CENEAR 79 15 pp.46-54
ISSN 0009-2347
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I use the title "Service to and from Chemistry" because I recognize that what service I may have been to chemistry has been amply repaid by the immense service that chemistry has been to me. This is made clear to me as I look back on how my love for chemistry led me from the coal miners' village of Coello, Ill. (about 300 population) to where I am today. Now, since this is almost surely my swan song, I will take the liberty of giving a brief account of my early life and professional career.

Photo by Mitch Jacoby
Published here is the full address, part of which was given by 2001 Priestley Medalist Fred Basolo during the awards ceremony on April 3 during the American Chemical Society's 221st national meeting in San Diego. Basolo is professor emeritus of chemistry at Northwestern University. He is being honored for his pioneering research in inorganic chemistry reaction mechanisms, for his guidance of many undergraduate researchers and doctoral students, and for his influential books on mechanisms of coordination compounds. Basolo is also being recognized for his service as president of the American Chemical Society and chair of the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry. An account of Basolo's career and research was published in the April 2 issue of Chemical & Engineering News.
Others of you might also be the first generation born to parents who immigrated to the U.S. to escape the Depression and famine of Europe in the early 1900s. My parents settled in the village of Coello in southern Illinois. I was born in 1920, and the Depression arrived in the early 1930s. When the coal mine closed, the people in Coello became destitute. Thanks to the welfare programs of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, they managed a sparse life. Since my age group was too young to get a job, we did attend high school. However, of our class of 15, I was the only person who went on to college. The others took jobs in our small village or in other nearby towns. Three of them became coal miners, suffered from the black lung, and died at an early age. Chemistry kept me from taking the same paths as my classmates.

Until I took the chemistry course in high school, I had never even heard the word chemistry nor did I know its meaning. My first chemistry teacher told us on our first day of class that she hated chemistry and knew no chemistry, so we would have to study the textbook and lab manual. Some 25 years later, one of the students in my freshman course told me his mother (my first chemistry teacher!) wanted to say "hello."

I then went to college at Southern Illinois Normal in Carbondale, which is about 25 miles south of Coello. The college only offered the bachelor of education degree. My parents and I decided that I would complete the four years so as to qualify for a high school teaching job in some nearby town, since a high school teacher was looked upon as one making a good salary and having the respect of the community.

The chemistry department at Southern Illinois was composed of four faculty members. Since the faculty's duty was to teach, no research was being done. The four teachers did a very good job of teaching and took a personal interest in the students. In my class of 1940, six of us majored in chemistry, did graduate work, and obtained Ph.D.s. In my case, this happened because professor James Neckers, at the beginning of my senior year, asked me to come to his office. He told me that I had done well in my chemistry courses and he thought that I should go on to graduate school. My first response was, "What is graduate school" He explained it to me and said that I should also apply for a teaching assistantship (which I did and received). I told him that I would have to talk to my parents, because we were looking forward to my becoming a high school teacher. My parents said yes, that I should continue my education and get a Ph.D., whatever that meant.

The University of Illinois (UI) had the "giants" of organic chemistry on its faculty. This meant that most of the approximately 200 graduate students at UI were studying organic chemistry. At Southern Illinois, I had particularly liked Neckers, who was an analytic/inorganic chemist. Making a long story short, I chose professor John C. Bailar Jr. as my mentor, and this was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. John was a very good chemist, an outstanding teacher, a caring person, and a first-rate individual. He has consistently been my personal role model.

I completed my research and successfully defended my thesis during my three years at UI, 1940–43. This was during World War II, which was strongly supported by all of us in the U.S. The service decided it would rather have me do classified research than have me as a GI. I went to work on an Army classified project at Rohm and Haas Chemical Co. in Philadelphia. The project we worked on is no longer classified, so it can be told that our research was to produce synthetic mica. I am pleased to report that we succeeded in doing this, even on a large pilot-plant scale.

Since I knew that I wanted to find a teaching position as soon as the war was over, I needed to become aware of what research was being done by inorganic chemists in the U.S. Precious little research on inorganic chemistry was being published, and what was published did not interest me very much. My browsing through the Journal of the American Chemical Society indicated that most of its papers were on organic chemistry. I read a few of the organic papers and found that they had to do with the kinetics and mechanisms of reactions. I began to think that it would be possible for me to make similar studies on octahedral cobalt(III) complexes and on square planar platinum(II) compounds.

These three years at Rohm and Haas, plus some consulting that I have done over the years, are the extent of my direct contact with research in industry. I believe that I could have been very happy had I chosen to stay in industry. Surely the satisfaction of seeing an important product that one has contributed to developing or discovering must excite one about the work being done. In my case, having always wanted to be a teacher, I derive my excitement from knowing (or believing) that I have been of some help in getting students started on their careers--be it in chemistry or elsewhere.

FIRST LADY Basolo with wife Mary in 1983, when he was president of ACS.
AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY. When the war was over, I was prepared to choose my school, since I had long known that I really wanted a teaching position. My choice of Northwestern University was strongly influenced by my desire to be in the Midwest, near family and friends. Another reason that I selected Northwestern, rather than some other school in the Midwest, was because of its location. Having spent most of my life in a small village, I felt that it would be exciting to live near Chicago and to become an avid fan of the Cubs and the Bears.

As a beginning instructor, my position was primarily as a teacher, since graduate students were not selecting inorganic chemistry for their Ph.D. research. I was not unhappy with this because I enjoyed teaching and looked forward to it, but I also wanted to have time to do research.

It was not long before I began to lecture in one of the three quarters of freshman general chemistry. I was able to convince my colleagues that I should teach the quarter on "descriptive chemistry." This was the name given to the simple reactions and syntheses using common elements of the periodic table. Lecturers in general chemistry often hated to teach this part of the course. They said the students found it boring because it was all memorization of given equations that had no meaning to them. I soon became aware that the students were correct.

After a few years of teaching general chemistry, I began to realize why descriptive chemistry was taking such a rap. I believed that a systematic way to teach elementary chemical reactions and syntheses of all the elements, making use of the periodic table, was needed. I decided that one systematic approach to elementary inorganic reactions might be to sort them into classes using titles readily understood by beginning students. This approach meant that students could make intelligent guesses of the products of these elementary reactions without having to memorize individual chemical reactions. I wanted them to see the forest (classes of reactions) and use this and the periodic table to help them see the trees (individual reactions). I told them if they learned to do this, they would be correct 95% of the time, which would give them an A in the course. The better students soon learned how to use the periodic table and even enjoyed the challenge.

I wrote a few articles on this approach, which were published in the Journal of Chemical Education, and later I coauthored a definitive paper on the subject with professor Robert Parry. I feel certain that the development of this method for the teaching of descriptive chemistry was responsible for my receiving the ACS James Flack Norris Award for Teaching (1981) and the ACS George C. Pimental Award in Chemical Education (1992).

I also gave one special lecture when teaching the freshman course: "The Early History of Metal Complexes and How Science Works." I gave this lecture because I knew that only a very few students in the class of about 600 would become professional chemists, while the majority might become prominent physicians, lawyers, politicians, and so on. I believed that it was important for the students to be exposed to a bit of science history and learn what is involved in making important scientific discoveries. It could be possible that some of the students might even attain positions where they would make decisions on the support of science.

Although textbooks in general chemistry for beginning students had improved over the years, I felt the chapters devoted to metal complexes were wanting. On my sabbatical in Rome (1961–62), I decided to write a small paperback book titled "Coordination Chemistry." I had one of my graduate students, Ronald Johnson, help me with it. The book was written for beginning students, in a language that they could understand. It was possible to discuss the newer topics of crystal field theory and reaction mechanisms. The book got rave reviews, and it was translated into seven different languages. Over the years, I have had chemists tell me that they chose to become inorganic chemists because, as beginning chemistry students, they read the book.

I was also responsible for teaching a junior/senior-level course in inorganic chemistry, which was the best thing that could have happened to me because it put me in direct contact with almost all of the entering graduate students. This resulted in students taking an interest in inorganic chemistry, and slowly we had them doing their graduate theses in inorganic chemistry.

It should be clear that I have enjoyed teaching and have always given it my highest priority. Some say faculty members in research-oriented universities devote all of their time to research at the expense of teaching. This is not generally the case, as one who is outstanding in research wants to be outstanding in whatever he does, including teaching.

It was slow going for a time, but if you read on, you will see that inorganic chemistry at Northwestern has become one of the strongest departments in the U.S., and it now ranks among the best in the world. This year, U.S. News & World Report placed Northwestern in inorganic chemistry as one of the top four in the nation (others being the University of California, Berkeley; California Institute of Technology; and Massachusetts Institute of Technology). It has delighted me, over the past 55 years, to see our department grow in strength in inorganic chemistry.  

7915basolo1x 7915basolo4x
COLLEAGUES Northwestern University inorganic chemistry faculty, 2001. Left to right: (back row) Poeppelmeier, Shriver, Ibers, O'Halloran; (front row) Allred, Marks, Basolo, Mirkin, Arnold-Godwin; Basolo in graduate school (photo at left) University of Illinois, 1940–43.
RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT. When six of us joined the chemistry faculty at Northwestern as instructors in 1945–47, universities and departments provided almost no start-up funds to assist beginning faculty with their research needs. Funding for research slowly improved, followed by a sudden increase after the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957. While minuscule by today's standards, the funding provided was a princely sum in those days. As pleased as we were with the money, we were even more pleased by the fact that the government was finally aware of the importance of supporting long-range basic research.

Beginning with Ralph Pearson and myself, inorganic chemistry at Northwestern has benefited from this support. Over the years, we have continued to add other inorganic chemists to our departmental faculty: Louis Allred (1956), Duward Shriver (1961), James Ibers (1964), Tobin Marks (1970), Kenneth Poeppelmeier (1984), Thomas O'Halloran (1986), Chad Mirkin (1991), and Hilary Arnold-Godwin (1996). All of these inorganic chemists are doing research of the highest quality, which enables them to receive excellent funding and to publish in the best scientific journals.

Because there were no graduate students at Northwestern interested in choosing inorganic chemistry for their Ph.D. dissertation research, I was the only author on my first two papers, which were published in JACS.

Since physical organic chemists were doing research on the kinetics and mechanisms of substitution reactions on carbon, it occurred to me that studies of this type could also be carried out with metal coordination complexes. Because of my experience with cobalt(III) and platinum(II) complexes, I thought this would be a good place to start. However, I did not have any experience with investigations on the kinetics and mechanisms of chemical reactions. Fortunately, among our group of newly arrived instructors, Pearson was conducting studies on organic compounds. As I saw it, my job would be to convince Ralph that he should come aboard and help me do research of the same type on inorganic compounds. This was not easy, and it required a couple of years of repeatedly bringing it up to him. Ralph's initial response was, "There is no interest in inorganic chemistry, so why should I waste my time studying such systems" He pointed to the fact that we did not even have any graduate students expressing an interest in inorganic chemistry.

Ralph was correct at the time, but things changed dramatically about then, with inorganic chemistry slowly becoming increasingly important. Ralph and I, with help from our excellent students, joined forces to get inorganic chemistry started at Northwestern. He and I published 60 scientific papers jointly, at a time when the field was just beginning to receive attention in the U.S. Because of this, we were in an enviable position to attract some of the very best graduate students, such as Andy Wojcicki, Harry Gray, Bob Angelici, Earl Thorsteinson, Don Morris, Ken Raymond, Al Crumbliss, Ruth Kowaleski, and many others. Ralph and I also wrote a book entitled "Mechanisms of Inorganic Reactions," published by John Wiley & Sons in 1958, with a second edition in 1967. The book was received extremely well worldwide. It produced outstanding reviews, with one of the reviewers, Daryle Busch, stating that it was destined to become the "bible" of inorganic mechanisms.

ACID AND BASE HYDROLYSIS OF METAL AMMINE COMPLEXES. At Northwestern, the detailed kinetic studies on ligand substitution reactions of metal complexes could not have been done without the joint effort of Pearson and myself. My contribution was primarily to select and synthesize the metal complexes to study, and Pearson was responsible for the kinetic studies. Since most of the published research made use of stable cobalt(III) compounds, we decided to use these compounds to investigate ligand substitution reactions of six-coordinated metal complexes.

Details of our research on the base hydrolysis of Co(III) complexes will not be discussed, because of the space limitation and the attempt to keep this talk at a level that nonchemists may understand and hopefully enjoy.

It was well known that the base hydrolysis of [Co(NH3)5Cl]2+ is orders of magnitude faster than is its rate of acid hydrolysis. This was believed to be caused by hydroxide, a strong base and a good nucleophile, attacking Co(III), resulting in a rapid bimolecular reaction (SN2). Our research showed that the reaction might instead proceed by a unimolecular conjugate base (SN1CB) mechanism. The proposal of our mechanism started a polemic in the literature between us and researchers at the University College London. The "high priest of physical organic chemistry," Sir Christopher Ingold, collaborated with the "giant of coordination chemistry," Sir Ronald Nyholm, on research to prove us wrong. Fortunately, we were able to prove that their proposed mechanism was not correct. The net result of this encounter focused attention on our research, so Ralph and I were promoted to associate professors with tenure. Furthermore, it was largely responsible for the notoriety that it gave to inorganic chemistry in our department and to our current reputation as being one of the best departments of inorganic chemistry in the world. We are thankful to the late professors Ingold and Nyholm for their help in causing us to work as hard as we did on this problem, and in giving us the visibility that it did. The lesson to be learned here is that if nontenured faculty members take on giants of chemistry, they must be certain to win.

ORGANOMETALLIC CHEMISTRY. Pearson left in 1976 to accept a position at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and later became famous with his "hard and soft" acid-base concept. I became interested in metal carbonyls when I attended the 3rd International Conference on Coordination Chemistry (ICCC). One of the plenary lectures was given by professor Walter Hieber, who had spent all of his professional career investigating the chemistry of metal carbonyls.

Hieber's plenary lecture was scheduled to last 45 minutes, but he talked for more than an hour. He did not know English and gave his talk in German. After his lecture, I complimented him on his elegant work, but then I stated, "You never told us how some of these reactions take place--in other words, observations on the reaction mechanisms." Fortunately, Luigi Venanzi was able to act as our translator, and he told Hieber what I had said. Hieber looked directly at me and replied in German, "Young man [I was 35], we do real chemistry in my laboratory, not the philosophy of chemistry." This meant that they were doing reactions and syntheses, but cared less about mechanisms or theories of bonding. This was exactly what I wanted to hear--that there had been almost no work done on the kinetics and mechanisms of CO substitutions of metal carbonyls. It was easy to see how my research group could investigate the substitution reactions of these compounds in the same manner as we were doing on the Werner complexes. I couldn't wait to get back to Northwestern and talk to beginning graduate students about this "wide-open" area of inorganic chemistry. The students would listen, then return later to ask for a problem involving Werner complexes, as were being investigated by my other graduate students.

Fortunately, Wojcicki decided to accept the challenge and initiate studies of CO substitution of metal carbonyls in our labs. Even more important to me than the fine work by Andy was his enthusiasm and excitement, which meant that other beginning students finally wanted to work on these systems.

After Wojcicki opened the watershed on metal carbonyls in our lab, other graduate students worked on such problems. There were far too many studies to discuss here, so only one that evolved into a useful concept and quickly came to be used globally will be briefly told. This began with the research of Erlind Thorsteinson on Co(CO)3NO and, later, Donald Morris on Fe(CO)2(NO)2. These two nitrosyl carbonyls are isoelectronic with the stable 18-electron count, and both are tetrahedral, as is Ni(CO)4. The three compounds are as similar as different compounds can be. We anticipated that the CO substitution of the nitrosyl compounds would proceed by a dissociative SN1 mechanism, as does Ni(CO)4. It came as a complete surprise to us when we found that the nitrosyls react by an associative SN2 mechanism.

We concluded that the NO group must be behaving in some different way than CO. We thought that this could only happen if a pair of electrons, normally on the metal, were localized on the nitrosyl ligand, permitting a rapid SN2 reaction. This seemed reasonable, because N is more electronegative than is C. This meant we had to localize a pair of electrons on N in order to provide an empty low-energy orbital on the metal to accommodate the entering electron pair of the nucleophile. This was done, as we then made use of a bent M5N2O, which had never been reported. Later, professor James Ibers and his students isolated a single crystal of a stable, bent M5N2O.

This phenomenon of localizing a pair of electrons on a ligand, thus permitting an SN2 substitution, was news to us and, we thought, to other coordination chemists. Therefore, we decided to look for other ligands that would serve the same role as NO. Very soon we found that cyclopentadiene could behave as such a ligand. At the time, E. O. Fischer and I were exchanging graduate students in their final year. Hans Schuster-Woldan, his first student to come to my lab, observed that (ç5-C5H5)Rh(CO)2 reacts by an SN2 mechanism, represented in the reaction shown on the facing page. This discovery is important, and it is called the ring-slippage SN2 mechanism. This was soon followed by the work of Mark Rerek and Ji Liang-nian, which showed that the corresponding indenyl compound reacts 108 times faster than does the above cyclopentadienyl compound. This is called the indenyl kinetic effect, and it has been widely used when faster reactions of this type are needed.

THE FAMILY Basolo with his family at the award ceremony for the 1996 Willard Gibbs Medal for research. Front row: Basolo (left), wife Mary, daughter Elizabeth, and son Fred Jr. Back row: daughters Margaret (left) and Mary Catherine.
ACS ACTIVITIES. We all know that the American Chemical Society, founded on April 6, 1876, with John Draper (1811–82) as its first president, is the largest scientific society in the world, having some 163,000 members, and is now 125 years old. One of the most important contributions made by ACS is its continuing effort to summarize all scientific publications--worldwide-- having to do with chemistry. We also know that its most important service to science generally, and specifically to chemistry, is its publication of scientific journals of the highest quality. Chemical Abstracts has published thousands of volumes of abstracts over many years. Each year it breaks its own previous Guinness world record for the most volumes of an index.

My significant interaction with ACS was when I became its president in 1983. This was not planned by me, nor did I do any electioneering to be elected. Two members of ACS had been nominated. Petition nominees could be added, provided they had a sufficient number of supporting signatures. One evening, I had a telephone call from one of my very best friends who was extremely credible and honest. He explained to me that he and many others were not satisfied with either of the two nominees' becoming president. They asked me to let them petition me as a candidate. I finally said that I needed to think about it, and they should call me again in three days, when I would give them my decision. I discussed this with my wife, Mary, and she said, "I know your friends who ask you to do this. I think if it will be good for chemistry, which you like so very much, you should do it."

I was sure that I would be defeated because the nominees were required to write an article for publication in Chemical & Engineering News. One of the questions we had to address was: "What do you wish to accomplish as president" What I wished to accomplish was 180º opposite that of the establishment. I wanted the society to experiment with holding only one annual meeting. The need for two meetings to quickly report some important chemical research was no longer valid, due to the large number of national and international chemical conferences and symposia. I also suggested that a review of all of the committees was in order. Although there is often a reason for appointing a committee to handle a problem that needs attention, when the job has been done, the committee should be terminated with kind thanks for having helped. It is easy to form a committee, but not so easy to remove it when its mission has been completed. Finally, I was of the opinion that society bylaws should put an upper limit--10 or 15 years--on the total number of years that one could serve on committees at the national level.

At present, some of our members work hard and do a good job, so they do not understand why their good work should be terminated at some upper number of years. Some have indeed done good work for 20 to 30 years, but one thing they have not done is step aside to give other ACS members a chance to serve. Ten or 15 years on national-level committees provides ample time to promote views and prompt changes in the society. Then it is time for new people with fresh ideas to serve on these committees. In my opinion, this is common sense, and other organizations must think the same, as they most generally have a limit of five years plus renewal of another five years as the limit of service on committees.

During my presidential year, my biggest disappointment was that I was not able to make any progress with the idea of one national meeting a year or the problems with committees. That shows the little I knew about the entrenched establishment at ACS.

Fortunately, there were many things I did that I felt good about during my presidential year. Only a few of these will be mentioned here.

As I progressed with my on-the-job learning as president-elect, I was asked to attend a meeting of the board of directors. It was understood that I had no voice or vote at the meeting. After listening to the board deliberations for two days, an item on the agenda that needed to be discussed was that of supporting an endeavor to establish a center on the history of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. The person, Arnold Thackray, who was attempting to get funds from ACS was asked to come state his case of why such a center was important to chemistry and why ACS should help fund it. Thackray made a good presentation of what he planned to do and why it was important to chemistry. After he had departed, the board members discussed the issue at length. At some point I asked permission to make a comment, and this was granted. I stated that, of all the items on the agenda and the considerations given them, I felt that the center for the history of chemistry had a chance of making the most impact on chemistry over the long term.

Later, Thackray told me that my remark had a good impact, for members of the board had been quite ambivalent over the past several months as to whether to help such a center get its start. Now, at last, they made a positive decision. Funds were contributed to the effort, and more were later provided by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Through mainly the efforts of Thackray, who understood the depth and significance of chemical achievement--and who was also very adept at raising large gifts from generous philanthropists--the center was established, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation is now recognized globally as an excellent resource for the history of chemistry.

One of the duties of ACS president is to represent its positions. Since I have just received the Priestley Medal, I will start with my representation of ACS at Priestley's birthday celebration in Northumberland, Pa.

EDUCATOR Professor George Pimentel (1922–89) of the University of California, Berkeley, was an outstanding physical chemist as well as a great teacher. He was largely responsible for the National Academy of Sciences' report "Opportunities in Chemistry," more often called the Pimentel Report.
The birthday celebration was held outdoors on a beautiful sunny day at the Priestley home. A long, high board where the speakers sat was positioned in the yard. Each speaker gave a five-minute talk in the order of their seating, left to right. People attending the celebration simply stood in the yard. In order of seating, the speakers were the town mayor, the town postmaster, a representative of the U.S. postmaster, others, and I. Before the talks, there were about 100 persons present, milling around, having coffee or tea, and talking with one another. Almost all of the attendees were members of the Unitarian Church, who knew Priestley as one of the founders of their religion as well as an outstanding chemist. Since no chemists were present, it occurred to me that I had a captive audience of nonchemists who should hear about the good side of chemistry. (Seldom do chemists get to speak to an audience of laymen, and we should always seize the opportunity to do this, for speaking only to an audience of chemists will be of little help to chemistry.) There were three speakers before me, so I had about 15 minutes to think about what I should say, rather than what I had planned to say.

What I said was that, on his birthday, Priestley would be very pleased and proud of what chemistry has achieved. He would see that chemistry provides us with essential things in our everyday life, such as toothpaste, clothing, and detergents, as well as several much larger and more important endeavors. These would include agriculture, with its use of fertilizers and insecticides to increase the production of food, improved medicinals and the discovery of new and effective drugs, oil refinery for gasoline production, petrochemicals for use in the manufacture of plastics and many other products. Yes, Priestley would be proud to see what chemistry has achieved in the past 200 years to improve the welfare of humankind.

After all the talks had finished, people stayed a little longer to go through the house and to visit with one another. During this time, four men came up to me and introduced themselves. One said: "We knew Priestley was a chemist, but we were surprised to have a chemist come to represent ACS. We keep seeing in the news media how chemicals such as dioxin and others are toxic or carcinogenic. We have gotten the opinion that all of chemistry is bad, and we even expected that chemists wanted not to be known as chemists. It was good to have you come to tell us how chemicals are helpful in our everyday life."

The handling of dioxin and other toxic or carcinogenic chemicals was a particularly newsworthy item requiring the response of ACS during 1983. As president, I represented ACS and was often asked by newspaper reporters, radio talk show hosts, and television anchorpersons to discuss the position of chemists on these environmental problems. I agreed to do this but always with one caveat--that I be given equal time to discuss the beneficial aspects of chemicals. Some of the interviewers hesitated, but after determining that I really meant it, they would say okay.

The president of ACS also has the duty to represent its viewpoints before some congressional committees. I had to do this twice: once before a committee wanting to know ACS's view on the teaching of science and math in our public schools (grades K to 12) and once before a committee on the funding of basic research. ACS staff prepares a brief to be entered into the record, and the committee members ask a few questions that generally are easy to answer. The disturbing feature about such presentations is that there are so few congressional committee members present. They come and they go, but the number at any one time is consistently small. What is perhaps useful is the report by ACS left as a record of its position on the subject matter. Unfortunately, even the report may never be read by a congressman.

The meeting often ends at noon, followed by lunch. One or two congressmen may be present, but more often staff members are all who remain. At one of these lunches, the conversation got around to the environment. One of the staff members, quite loudly, kept saying that the environmental problems were due to chemicals. He went so far as to say, "Chemicals are bad. We must get rid of all chemicals." During our luncheon conversation, he repeated this once or twice. At some point, I asked him where he and I would be if we got rid of all chemicals. He had no meaningful answer, so I told him we would not be here because our bodies are made of chemicals. I went further to say that all things on Earth are made of chemicals, including Earth itself. The only things that are not chemicals are sound, light, heat, and magnetism. I left thinking that the staff members had failed to get the message.

My year as president of ACS was a rewarding experience for me. I learned that one cannot succeed in making major changes in an organization deeply entrenched in its policies. However, most of the effort I made as president was a good learning experience for me, and some of what was done made significant contributions to chemistry. Therefore, I take this opportunity to thank the members of ACS who voted for me to be their president in 1983.

Because of space restrictions, what follows will only briefly mention some of my other activities.

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES. I was elected a member of NAS in 1979 and will address a few of my activities in the academy. This honor bestowed upon me must be the pinnacle of my career. Being a member of NAS is regarded as the highest national honor that a U.S. scientist can achieve, and the same is true for scientists of other countries in their national academies of sciences. Currently, the U.S.'s NAS has a total of 2,255 members, encompassing six different areas of science. In my opinion, there are as many, or more, well-qualified chemists who should be, but never become, members of NAS.

I attended all annual meetings of the academy prior to my illness. I served on different committees, but the most important activity that I was involved in during my years in NAS and, particularly, the Board of Chemical Science & Technology (BCST), focused on the book titled "Opportunities in Chemistry," more often referred to as the Pimentel Report, named after the very able chairman of the report, George Pimentel. The book describes the contemporary research frontiers of chemistry and the opportunities for the chemical sciences to address society's needs. I was privileged to first work on its planning committee, which unanimously recommended that the survey of chemistry be undertaken. When BCST approved, I was on the committee, with 25 eminent scientists, that was assigned the job of generating the book, which was issued in 1985.

GORDON RESEARCH CONFERENCES. The Gordon Research Conferences (GRCs) are named after their founder, Elbridge Gordon (1886–1949). He received his Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University. Some of his colleagues were more esteemed as chemists than was Gordon. However, he did something for science, and chemistry in particular, that remains unique today. He conceived of a lecture series with open and uninhibited discussion of key scientific issues.

GRCs are unique because a group of scientists with similar interests "lives" together for one week, isolated from outside interference. Each day starts with morning lectures and discussions. The afternoons are free, and after dinner there are evening lectures and discussions. The number of participants is not to exceed 150. Almost all attendees stay the entire week, which gives them ample time to meet one another and, at times, even discuss some chemistry.

It was then that a few of us decided to get permission from GRC to start a conference on inorganic chemistry. This request was granted with the understanding that we were to maintain a minimum number of 100 attendees in order that the schools involved could make a profit. A few of us wrote many letters to chemists we believed would want to attend and support the conference.

The first inorganic chemistry conference was held the week of Aug. 20, 1951, in New Hampton, N.H. The attendees numbered 60, with 28 from industries and other nonacademic positions. Considering that we had yet to reach the "golden age of America," the academic people had to pay for their own travel and registration expenses. This is probably why there were so few academic scientists in attendance.

The first inorganic GRC was chaired by professor Conard Fernelius of Pennsylvania State University. The first of four topics to start the inorganic GRC was chaired by John Bailar. I was fortunate to be selected to give the first talk to launch the inorganic GRC, which has been held every year for 50 years and continues to get better each year. My talk was titled "Stereochemical Changes in Reactions of Coordination Compounds."

My official role with the conference started years ago with an appointment on the Selection & Scheduling Committee. The duty of this committee is to select new conferences from among those suggested by any scientist and to monitor the conferences in an effort to know if they meet the standard required or if they should be terminated. My next official role was the result of being voted a member of the council. The council primarily keeps an eye on the conference status, trying to anticipate the needs of the conferences as well as their scientific direction in future years. My last tour of duty with GRC was as a member of the board of trustees, serving as chairman of the board in 1975–76. The duties of the board were similar to those of other boards: keeping watch and making final decisions on all matters of importance to GRC, such as locations of new sites, salaries of the director and other personnel, promotions, and distribution of funds among individual conferences.

From this long write-up, it should be clear that GRC has been of great service to inorganic chemistry, other areas of chemistry, and science in general.

FUNDING AGENCIES. Most academic, research-oriented chemists with agency funding will, at some point, be asked to serve on a panel to review research proposals and recommend those that are worthy of financial support. In the U.S., some of these agencies include the ACS Petroleum Research Foundation (PRF), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). I therefore have been asked to serve on such committees, and, fortunately, most have an upper limit of five years of service, with another five-year renewal possible. Four of the panels that I served on were PRF, NATO, NSF, and NIH. The one unique panel that I served on was NATO.

NATO is well known as a political/military organization with 15 member countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Turkey, the U.K., and the U.S. How does it happen that NATO has had a basic science program for the past 42 years It was noted, after a more careful reading of Article II of the North Atlantic Treaty, that its conditions allowed for basic research to help ensure the "well-being" of the NATO member countries. This was discussed in 1956, with the goal of preparing a case for the need of a program on basic science. This caused some unease among some members of the alliance. However, the launch of the first Sputnik by the Russians in 1957 helped to bring in focus the need for such a program. In 1958, the science committee of the basic science program had its first meeting.

In 1971, I was invited to serve on the panel of the NATO Research Grant Program. Each NATO country had its own representative on the panel, and I was to be the U.S. representative. The committee met three times a year (in February, July, and October), twice at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, and once in a "science developing" member country. I replaced Henry Taube, who had finished his five years on the panel and had suggested me as his replacement. This was a rather unique panel because it had to deal with proposals from all areas of science, engineering, and mathematics. The panel was chosen so as to have at least one expert in each of these areas of science. Almost all of us were professors, and it was interesting to work with mathematicians, biologists, and others and to see how they handled research proposals in their fields. (American scientists will be shocked to know that instead of the many-paged research proposals required in the U.S., only a one- or two-page proposal is needed in Europe.)

I was chairman of this panel during my fifth year and was then asked to stay an additional year as chairman. I was about to say no, because traveling to Europe three times a year for five years was a bit much, but I finally stayed the sixth year.

One final assignment that I had from the NATO Research Grants Program was to arrange a conference involving two or more different, but related, areas of science research. This assignment started when I received a telephone call from the deputy secretary general for scientific affairs. He asked if I could come immediately to his office to discuss the possibility of some such conference. I said yes, and the next day I was on an airplane on my way to NATO headquarters in Brussels. There I was asked if I knew an area of science where the very top investigators differed in their views and research approach to the same problem. Fortunately, I was chairman of our department at the time (1969–72), and I had just been involved in preparing a research proposal on catalysis. The proposal amounted to a three-way attack on catalysis. The three ways were heterogeneous, homogeneous, and metalloenzyme. The NATO folks listened to what I had to say about this, then enthusiastically said this was exactly what they had in mind. They told me that they had to move quickly, for they were about to end the year with a $50,000 surplus. This they did not want to return, because each year they asked for an increase in their budget, and they wanted to make sure all of their money was spent.

I went into immediate action. I first called Joseph Chatt, an expert on nitrogen fixation (metalloenzyme catalysis) and then Renato Ugo (heterogeneous)--I would handle the homogeneous--and told them the reason for the urgency and asked that they come at once so that the three of us could work on the program as well as decide whom to invite. Since this was the end of November, we had much to do before sending out invitations early in December. We needed a secluded, quiet place where we could all be housed and get our meals. Ugo was able to get us the ideal place for our workshop: Santa Margerita de Pula in Sardinia. It is near the coast and is used by Italians for their summer vacations. In the winter, it is used only for special groups such as ours.

We were pleased that we were able to attract a real "scientific dream team." The book "Catalysis, Progress in Research" was published by Plenum Press with my colleague Bob Burwell and me as editors. The book not only summarized what was known about catalysis, but, even more important, what was not known and needed further study. I have been told by different young chemists writing research proposals for funding that they found the book useful in giving them ideas for research. Hearing this has been very satisfying, for it was exactly what we had in mind.

EMERITUS PROFESSOR. There were times when I felt as though I were spending all my time in airports, due to delayed or canceled flights. Once I told this to my brother, Martin, who owned the only store in Coello, named Basolo's Groceries. Martin, who had never left Coello nor ever seen an ocean or a mountain, said to me, "You are crazy running all over the world when you could have stayed here and taken it easy." There were times when I was waiting in an airport that I would think about what my brother had said.

In 1990, I became the Charles E. & Emma H. Morrison Emeritus Professor at Northwestern. My wife Mary, our children (then adults with their own families), and I had looked forward to that day. Of course, it meant that I would be free of teaching and research at Northwestern. Thus, our family could spend more time together, something I had not done earlier because of my travels here and abroad.

Mary and I had been in our new house for three years, and we both agreed that life had been good to us, and we would not have wanted to have it any other way. Our children were happily married, and we were to have 11 lovely grandchildren. We love, and are proud of, all of them. None of our children became a chemist, but all are teachers with tenure. Earlier I mentioned how I enjoy teaching, and thus, our children have followed in one-half of their dad's footsteps.

The first noticeable happening was Aug. 17–18, 1990, when there was a large, successful celebration of my 70th birthday. This was arranged by my former students and postdoctorates. For the most part, the gathering was initiated by Harry Gray, with most of the work, particularly the local work, being done by my colleague and friend Tom O'Halloran. The complicated work of on-site registration and room assignment was that of my former student Tom Weaver. The design of the Basolo logo was done by some of my professional grandchildren at Caltech, and the T-shirts with the logo were printed by Eric Voss, one of Du Shriver's graduate students. The weather was excellent for the two days of the gathering. Almost all of my Ph.D. students and postdocs attended, some even from distant countries such as Australia and China. There were about 60 attendees during the lectures and about 150 at the final reception and dinner.

In addition to all the friendly horseplay, there were, as well, serious moments after dinner. Harry made the very correct point that, had it not been for my dear wife Mary, we would not be having such an occasion. He presented her with a very nice gift (earrings) from all of my graduate students and postdocs. He also thanked them, and other friends, for their contributions to the event. Several corporations were also thanked for their support of "Basolo 70." As a result of all this generosity, there were enough funds left that my students and postdocs decided to work toward an endowment to establish an annual award of a Basolo Medal & Lecture. The endowment has now reached a point where it will support the award to perpetuity. This is not to say that additional funds are not needed, because additional annual costs for the award seem to increase each year. I have absolutely nothing to do with the selection of awardees. This is all done by the inorganic chemistry faculty at Northwestern. The award is for outstanding research in inorganic chemistry, and it is clear that this goal has been, and is being, reached. Awardees of the Basolo Medal are Ralph G. Pearson (1991), Henry Taube (1992), Jack Halpern (1993), Harry Gray (1994), Lawrence Dahl (1995), Richard H. Holm (1996), Kenneth N. Raymond (1997), Malcolm Green (1998), Thomas J. Meyer (1999), James P. Collman (2000), and M. Frederick Hawthorne (2001).

One of the people very much involved with this event was my former student John Burmeister. He and Barry Lever, editor of Coordination Chemical Reviews, arranged to have a special issue of the journal dedicated to my 70th birthday. John had told all the speakers to arrive with a manuscript of their talk; otherwise they would not be allowed to speak. This seemed to have the effect that John had anticipated, because they all complied except one, Wojcicki, who has always been late when dealing with deadlines. However, he was so embarrassed by being the only person who would hold up the publication of the special issue that he promptly wrote his paper and sent it to John. John was then able to get all of the manuscripts and quickly sent them to Barry. Due to Burmeister, this operation set a record that may never be broken. Usually, special issues of journals take an inordinate length of time to appear because there are always two or more authors who do not deliver their papers on time. Not only did John take charge and get the job done ahead of schedule, but he also wrote an introductory account of me. He did this so eloquently that he was asked to write the introduction on the occasion of my 75th birthday for Inorganica Chimica Acta, and, again, on my 80th birthday for Chemtracks (Inorganic Chemistry). Unbelievably, John was able to write these three introductions about me, presenting his same message each time, but so done that no two articles were the same.

My situation after moving into our new place was what I had wanted it to be. I was able to satisfy my hobby of having a small vegetable garden and was able to play golf twice a week on a nearby public course. However, this was short-lived, because the sore back that I had put up with for years became so very painful that I needed help. My doctor and an excellent surgeon that he recommended said the pain was caused by a slipped disk which, when taken care of by surgery, would alleviate the pain. This was just a few weeks from when I was invited to the XXVII ICCC (1989) in Brisbane, Australia. Since Mary had long wanted to go to Australia, I accepted the invitation, and the surgery was done once we returned. This surgery was followed by four more surgeries, with the last one taking 14 hours and requiring three surgeons, each of different specialties. The net result of all of this is that the nerves from my brain to my legs were damaged. Now I am unable to walk without two canes, and, in Northwestern's large technological building, I use a scooter. In spite of all our health problems, Mary and I felt that we had a good life together, and that the time in our life could not have been better.

Mary and I began to enjoy our house, and it seemed we had made the right choice for our retirement. One thing Mary and I both enjoyed was having our daughters Peg and Liz living locally with their families. Peg and Gary Silkaitis have two boys, whereas Liz and Bob Pionke have two girls and a boy. We were so very happy to watch them grow from babies to teenagers. During all of the years, we often were visited each week by them and enjoyed their calling us Grandma and Grandpa. It was Grandma with whom they were the most comfortable, and when Mary and I were both present, it was clear they always preferred being with her. I would think that the reason for this was that she never failed to give them good things, such as candy, ice cream, and toys. Another reason was that when Peg or Liz were busy, they often would take the children to Mary for care. In addition, our eldest daughter, Mary Catherine (M.C.) Kunzer, and our son Fred Jr. live only about a three-hour drive from us. This made it possible for our children and grandchildren (six girls and five boys) to often stop in and visit us. This was one of the most joyful times for Mary. We certainly were fortunate to have all of our families near enough to spend holidays (Christmas and Fourth of July, for example) together, because often, due to employment, it is necessary for some members of a family to move a long distance away.

The other most satisfying, pleasurable thing for Mary was her foursome of bridge each week. This bridge group was the first to recognize the fact that Mary was having difficulty with her memory. She could no longer remember the cards played. This became so bad that she could no longer play, but she continued to attend the bridge meetings each week in order to be with her friends. She also had to stop driving her car because she would get confused and have a problem finding her way--even to go to the grocery store where she had routinely shopped each day. Our doctor said it appeared to be the onset of Alzheimer's disease, but that there was no specific test for its diagnosis. She then began to get lost during her short walks in the neighborhood. The situation became worse each day, and our family got together to talk about how best to take care of her.

Then came the tragic accident that Mary did not survive. At about 9 AM, I was driving her to the day care center and was only two blocks away when I fell asleep at the wheel. We sideswiped an oncoming truck, and I lost control of the car, which left the road and hit a tree. She died on Feb. 5, 1997. I am told that perhaps I fell asleep because of the combination of some new medications and tiredness--Mary would often awaken at night, and become quite confused and distressed, and it would sometimes take hours to calm her down.

In conclusion, I can truthfully say that I marvel at what has happened to me during my life. Not in my wildest dreams could I have expected when growing up in the little mining village of Coello that, some day, I would become a successful chemist. This success could not have been mine had it not been for my parents, Mary and our children, and, of course, the many helpful members of my professional family. As the end is inevitable, I wish to take this opportunity to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. In the words of my oldest grandchild, John Michael Kunzer, who inherited these words from his grandmother:

Happiness always.


OUTREACH Basolo speaking on behalf of ACS at First Day of Issue ceremonies for the Joseph Priestley postage stamp held at Priestley's home in Northumberland, Pa.

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