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April 9, 2001
Volume 79, Number 15
CENEAR 79 15 pp.7
ISSN 0009-2347
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UT Austin researcher will receive the society's highest honor in 2002


Allen J. Bard, who holds the Norman Hackerman/ Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry at the University of Texas, Austin, will receive the 2002 Priestley Medal. The award is the American Chemical Society's highest honor. It is given each year for distinguished service to chemistry.

MANY TALENTS Bard is an esteemed researcher, teacher, and editor.
"I was very surprised and happy," Bard says about his selection by the ACS Board of Directors last week at the ACS national meeting in San Diego.

"That's fantastic," UT Austin President Larry L. Faulkner tells C&EN. "He's most deserving of the honor."

Bard, 67, is best known for his electrochemistry research. By applying electrochemical methods to the study of chemical problems, Bard has deepened the fundamental understanding of electron-transfer reactions, fostered the development of electroanalytical methods and instruments, and opened up new areas of inquiry, such as electrogenerated chemiluminescence (ECL). His work has transformed electrochemistry so that it now permeates the traditional disciplines of analytical, physical, organic, and inorganic chemistry and biochemistry.

"I admire Allen very much both for the high quality of his scholarship and for the breadth of it," says Royce W. Murray, chemistry professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and editor-in-chief of Analytical Chemistry. "What is amazing is that he just continues to broaden his endeavors." Most recently, for example, Bard invented scanning electrochemical microscopy, a technique for characterizing electrochemical interfaces. An outgrowth of this work has been single-molecule detection by electrochemical means.

Venturesomeness and versatility characterize Bard's work, from seminal studies of the interaction of light with semiconductor electrodes to ECL. ECL--the generation of light through electrochemical reactions--is potentially important for displays and lighting sources. It has also led to new clinical methods for analysis of biological materials. Bard "didn't discover" ECL, says chemistry professor Fred C. Anson at California Institute of Technology. "But he exploited it and saw things that could be done with it more than anybody" else did.

Bard not only has helped build the foundations of electrochemistry but also has promoted the teaching and propagation of the field. He teaches important skills by example, says former graduate student Paul A. Kohl, now a chemical engineering professor at Georgia Institute of Technology. Among those skills is the ability to describe complex concepts clearly and concisely.

That clarity of thought is evident in the textbook "Electrochemical Methods," which Bard coauthored in 1980 with Faulkner, another former graduate student. That book, Anson says, "has been the most influential textbook in electrochemistry" since the 1950s. A second edition was released last December.

Although the bulk of his career has been devoted to research and education, Bard has been serving chemistry in other important ways. Since 1982, he has been editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, calmly steering it through the upheavals of electronic publishing. He will step down from that post at the end of this year (see page 9).

As an editor, Bard eschews the hype and special effects that sometimes substitute for content, but he enthusiastically helps young people get published. Realizing that younger scientists are inexperienced in evaluating their own work and presenting results, he suggests ways they can refocus and rewrite a paper to make it more acceptable to reviewers.

In other public service, Bard was president of the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry from 1991 to 1993 and chair of the chemistry section of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) from 1996 to 1999.

Bard earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry (1955) from City College of New York and master's and doctorate degrees (1956 and 1958) from Harvard University. He joined UT in 1958.

The Priestley Medal is the latest in a long list of awards Bard has accumulated, including the NAS Award in Chemical Sciences, the Italian Chemical Society's Luigi Galvani Medal, and the ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry. Just last month, Bard received the Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award.

"He is running out of awards to receive," Anson says. "But I'm sure there'll be more."


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Copyright © 2001 American Chemical Society

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