Photo of Howard E. Simmons Jr.

Howard E. Simmons Jr.

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For his fundamental contributions to synthesis, molecular structure, and the theory of organic chemistry, and for his productive management of the premier industrial chemical research program in the United States.

Convinced that he wanted to study chemistry, Howard E. Simmons began at age 12 to conduct experiments in a small home laboratory, and often delighted his friends with homemade fireworks. Recognized as an independent thinker who grasped ideas quickly, he went on to graduate first in his class at MIT in chemistry, minoring in physics and mathematics.

During his 37-year career with DuPont, Simmons was known for his exceptional research accomplishments, management style that motivated other scientists, and passion for high-quality science and strong fundamental research. His research contributions include accomplishments in organic synthesis, physical organic chemistry and theoretical studies. Simmons was the coauthor of the Simmons–Smith reaction, a chemical reaction involving a basic organic structure called cyclopropane. Over the course of his career, Simmons received thirteen patents and published seventy-six scientific papers.

Under Simmons’ leadership as head of central research at DuPont, the company developed top-quality scientific capabilities in biotechnology and genetics, as well as in the materials sciences, including polymers and ceramics. Simmons created an environment in which scientists could do their best work and supply a constant flow of new ideas, new science and new processes, which helped propel DuPont into successful bold initiatives.

By Jennifer Santisi