Photo of John Ross

John Ross

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For his outstanding contribution and enormous impact in physical chemistry, in particular molecular studies, the kinetics and thermodynamics of nonlinear systems, and new approaches to the determination of complex chemical and biological reaction mechanisms.

John Ross made significant contributions in physical chemistry, especially in molecular studies, statistical mechanics and the chemical kinetics of nonlinear systems. His theoretical and experimental contributions in reaction kinetics and dynamics that have changed the way we think about chemical reactivity and allowed us to understand why many chemical phenomena occur.

For more than a century, scientists studying complex systems identified chemical species and then isolated single reactions involving those species. The traditional approach at the time, Ross said in an interview, was analogous to a person listening to music on the radio, wanting to understand how the radio works, smashing it with a sledgehammer to reveal its parts.

Instead of smashing the radio, Ross pioneered new methods for analyzing how complex chemical systems are linked. He devised analytical tools to measure whole systems (rather than smashing them), to determine what chemical species are most important in a complicated reaction mechanism and how they are linked through specific types of chemical reactions.

By Jen Santisi