History

On March 18, 1929, the first chemistry class met at UCLA’s Westwood campus, six months before the official opening of the campus. The 125 students enrolled in Chemistry 1A were the first to receive instruction in the class taught by Professor Hosmer W. Stone (pictured right). The original chemistry building was being built at UCLA’s Vermont campus but it was destroyed by a suspicious fire on January 3, 1929. Rather than rebuilding from the ashes (classes were to start in March), the chemistry department was moved to the Westwood campus to be housed in what is now Haines Hall (pictured left). Read more here.

The original six faculty members of the UCLA Department of Chemistry & BIochemistry
 
The original six faculty members of the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry: (from left) William Crowell, Max Dunn, William Morgan, James Ramsey, George Robertson, and Hosmer Stone.
 
William Ransom Crowell (1897-1965, Ph.D. Columbia Univ., thesis advisor: M.C. Whitaker) - joined UCLA faculty in 1919.  In Memoriam, Sept.1978 p. 48-50
 
Max Shaw Dunn (1895-1976, Ph.D. Univ. Illinois) - joined UCLA faculty in 1922.  In Memoriam, May 1977 p.84-85.
 
William Conger Morgan (1874-1940, Ph.D. Yale) - joined UCLA faculty in 1920. In Memoriam, 1940 p.17-18.  
 
James Blaine Ramsey (1892-1965, Ph.D. UC Berkeley, thesis advisor: William C. Bray) - joined UCLA faculty in 1923. In Memoriam, June 1967 p.84-89.
 
George Ross Robertson (1888-1972, Ph.D. Univ. Chicago, thesis advisor: Julius Steiglitz) - joined UCLA faculty in 1921. In Memoriam, July 1975 p.136-137.
 
Hosmer W. Stone (1892-1967, Ph.D. Univ. Wisconsin), joined UCLA faculty in 1921. In Memoriam, May 1968 p.119-123.  
 

This group photo of members of UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry was taken on July 31, 1952 in front of Haines Hall before the move to Young Hall that same year. Click here to see the photo legend.

A Brief history of the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry 

A Half Century in Chemistry at UCLA 1932-1983 by Professor Francis E. Blacet (PDF)
Francis Blacet (1899-1990) joined the chemistry faculty at UCLA in 1932, served as Chairman of the Department of Chemistry from 1948 to 1956, and as Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences until his retirement in 1966. 

The Making of an Institute: The MBI at UCLA - 1960-1978 by Professor Richard Dickerson (PDF)
The history of how the Molecular Biology Institute (MBI) at UCLA came about. Richard Dickerson (1931-) is a Professor Emeritus of the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and served as the second Director of the MBI from 1983 to 1994.  
 
 
Notable UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry Alumni and Faculty
 
Professor Emeritus Paul D. Boyer (1918 – 2018) shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research on the "enzymatic mechanism underlying the biosynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)" (ATP synthase) with John E. Walker. He joined the UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty in 1963. In 1965, he became the Founding Director of the Molecular Biology Institute and spearheaded the construction of the building that now bears his name, and the organization of an interdepartmental Ph.D. program. 
 
Astronaut alumna Anna Fisher flew a successful mission for NASA in 1984 and became the first mother in space, and received three degrees from UCLA between 1976 and 1987. She earned a B.S. in chemistry in 1971 and an M.D. in 1976 before being chosen an astronaut in 1978. After her space flight in 1984, Fisher obtained an M.S. in chemistry in 1987 at UCLA. She was so devoted to her space job that Fisher gave birth to her oldest child, Kristin, on a Friday and attended a NASA meeting the following Monday in preparation for her flight. Fisher is among UCLA’s icons featured in its Optimists campaign.
 
The sixth UCLA alumnus to win a Nobel Prize, Richard Heck (1931 - 2015) earned his B.S. degree in chemistry from in 1952 and his Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry in 1954 after working with Saul Winstein, a well-known professor in the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Heck pioneered a method for synthesizing complex carbon molecules. The “Heck reaction” has become a pillar of modern organic chemistry–and a key to the research that led to the sequencing of the human genome. Heck returned to UCLA in 2011 to be honored with the  Glenn T. Seaborg Medal.  Heck is among UCLA's icons featured in its Optimists campaign.
 
Alumnus Glenn T. Seaborg (1912 - 1999) was one of the most remarkable and influential chemists of the 20th Century. After completing undergraduate studies in Chemistry at UCLA in 1934, he began graduate work in nuclear chemistry at Berkeley and received a Ph.D. in 1937. He joined the faculty at Berkeley as instructor in 1939. In 1951, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Seaborg held the unique distinction of having element 106, Seaborgium, named after him. Each year the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry honors Seaborg at the annual Seaborg Symposium and Medal Dinner
 
Alumnus John D. ("Jack") Roberts (1918-2016) was one of the most influential chemists of the last 75 years. He received his B.A. degree in 1941 and the Ph.D. in 1944 (with William G. Young as research advisor); he continued at UCLA as an Instructor, 1944-45, until moving to Harvard on a National Research Council postdoctoral fellowship with Paul Bartlett. Roberts had a long career at the California Institute of Technology, not only doing great research and leading the organic chemical world into the use of quantum theory, NMR, and isotope effects to explore organic reaction mechanisms. He has been honored by UCLA with the UCLA Alumni Achievement Award in 1967 and the Seaborg Medal from in 1991. 
 
 
Many thanks to UCLA LIbrarian Emeritus Marion Peters for her contributions to this website.