Photo of Richard N. Zare

Richard N. Zare

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For his seminal contributions to molecular spectroscopy, photochemistry, and chemical reaction dynamics, especially for his incisive theoretical methods and the development of the experimental technique of laser induced fluorescence.

During Richard N. Zare’s childhood, his father discouraged him from studying chemistry. His father once pursued a career as a chemist but flunked out of graduate school and felt his son would only experience the same unhappiness he did. But it was not enough to deter Zare. When Zare’s father refused to let his son borrow his old chemistry set, Zare bought supplies from a local pharmacist to experiment with.

Zare’s interest in chemistry led him to an academic career that took him to institutions across the country; from MIT to the University of Colorado Boulder to Columbia University and, finally, to Stanford. Over the course of his career, he established himself as a pioneer in using lasers in chemistry research to analyze chemicals and their reactions.

Zare has used lasers for a wide-range of research topics, everything from studying beer bubbles to looking for signs of life in Mars meteorite. Following Zare’s lead, researchers around the world continue to use lasers to study reactions.

By Jacob Kerr