Photo of Ernest R. Davidson

Ernest R. Davidson

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For his innovative leadership and numerous conceptual and algorithmic developments that led to the field of computational quantum chemistry and made possible the accurate modeling of chemical reactions and the response of molecules to radiation.”

Ernest Davidson defines computational quantum chemistry

When Ernest R. Davidson first began studying chemistry, computers were still a novelty in the field, and their potential was largely untapped. Davidson earned his Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1961 and has spent the majority of his career at Indiana University and the University of Washington. During this time, computers have become more important in modern chemistry. It was no accident.

Davidson played a key role in harnessing the power of this new technology and pioneered computational quantum chemistry, which uses computers to predict the behavior and properties of molecules. Computational quantum chemistry fundamentally transformed the field of chemistry. Not only can it complement empirical data gathered through chemical experiments, but in some cases, it can predict unobserved phenomena as well.

Davidson’s computational methods have allowed contemporary chemists to tackle problems that would have previously been far too complicated to solve, and have widespread applications for the development of new drugs and materials.