Photo of Saul Winstein

Saul Winstein

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

In recognition of his many innovative and perceptive contributions to the study of mechanism in organic chemical reactions.

Saul Winstein died suddenly at age 57, the height of his career. His life, though short, spanned a major period of growth for organic chemistry – a field he helped to shape for generations to come.

At UCLA, Winstein, examined formation of cations, positively charged ions. His team focused specifically on the 2-norbornyl cation, formed from derivatives of norbornane, a hydrocarbon.

In his namesake reaction, Winstein demonstrated how a “non-classical” cation – a pair of delocalized electrons between three carbon atoms – was needed to ensure the 2-norbornyl’s stability.

Research aside, Winstein mentored 72 Ph.D. students and was known for his “desire to understand everything thoroughly.”

As a result, today’s textbooks contain phrases he invented, including “solvent participation,” “internal return,” “anchimeric assistance,” “intimate ion pair,” and “homoaromaticity.”

“I think this was a fortunate man,” author Irving Stone said at his funeral, “a man who realized his dream with nothing to go on but brains, character, integrity and self-discipline.”