Photo of Herbert S. Gutowsky

Herbert S. Gutowsky

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

In recognition of pioneering studies in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Herbert S. Gutowsky pioneered a technique for understanding the structure of molecules , knowns as nuclear magnetic resonance. The process involves exposing a substance to electromagnetic radiation within a magnetic field. Some of the radiation is absorbed by the substance being analyzed. The spectrums of radiation absorbed allows researchers to identify the substance’s molecular structure.

Gutowsky’s work is credited with producing one of the most effective research techniques used in medical and chemical research. The experimental tool can be used to analyze the structure of molecules in solids, liquids and gasses.

His research led him and his students at the University of Illinois to discover a chemistry phenomenon, known as spin-spin coupling, which involves the magnetic relationship between nuclei of neighboring atoms that are non-equivalent and nuclear magnetic resonance active.

Gutowsky also built his own device to perform nuclear magnetic resonance analysis. His work analyzing molecular structure spurred companies, including Varian Brothers, to produce and sell nuclear magnetic resonance devices commercially for research.

By Christine Ayala