Photo of Rudolph A. Marcus

Rudolph A. Marcus

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For his fundamental, far-reaching, and eminently useful developments of theories of unimolecular reactions and of electron transfers in chemistry and biochemistry.

Rudolph Marcus, known as “Rudy” to friends and colleagues, was one of the first Canadian scientists to study theoretical chemistry. In the 1950s, Marcus developed a theory on the rates of electron transfer reactions — when an electron moves from one chemical species to another. His theory, now called “Marcus Theory,” is still taught in chemistry classrooms today.

While Marcus is best known for his work as a chemist, his first academic love was mathematics. As a student, he excelled in math courses and aimed to take as many classes as possible.

As he progressed in school, Marcus developed more of an interest in science — particularly chemistry. After receiving his PhD in chemistry from McGill University in Canada, Marcus attempted to secure a postdoctoral research fellowship in the United States.

Marcus was accepted by one of the six theoreticians he applied to work with and traveled to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He became a naturalized citizen in the 1950s and still lives in the United States today.

By Rachel Warren