Photo of George S. Hammond

George S. Hammond

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For his talents as educator, academic administrator and industrial research director, and for creating the field of organic photochemistry, laying the theoretical foundations for research and the development of commercial products from its applications.

Credited with being the father of organic photochemistry, George S. Hammond started his life on a dairy farm in Auburn, Maine and went on to make important scientific contributions in chemistry. Hammond and his students developed the techniques described in many of the organic photochemistry textbooks.

One of Hammond’s most well known publications, the Hammond Postulate, describes the geometric structure of the transition state in an organic chemical reaction. Hammond’s postulate is useful for understanding the relationship between the rate of a reaction and the stability of the products. The basic ideas in the paper have become an icon for structure–reactivity relationships; it is one of the most cited articles of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Hammond is remembered by many as being an inspirational teacher, encouraging his students to see beyond failure. “Why should we always be so uneasy about failing?,” Hammond is quoted saying. “The real pioneers of human thought and action are forever trying new things and settling for partial success.”

By Jen Santisi