ACS M. Frederick Hawthorne Award in Main Group Inorganic Chemistry

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A new American Chemical Society (ACS) national award honors boron research pioneer UCLA Professor Emeritus M Frederick Hawthorne. 

Christe SmallThe inaugural M. Frederick Hawthorne Award in Main Group Inorganic Chemistry has been awarded to Professor Karl Christe (USC) (pictured right) who will present the Hawthorne Award address at the 2021 Spring ACS meeting and participate in the awards banquet. Christe is recognized for his seminal contributions to the area of main group high energy density materials involving fluorine and polycatenated nitrogen-based compounds. In addition, he will receive $5,000 and his travel expenses to the meeting will be reimbursed up to $1,500. Christe will also deliver the annual M. Frederick Hawthorne Lecture at UCLA in 2021.  

“I am extremely pleased by the selection of Karl as the first recipient of the Hawthorne award,” said Hawthorne. “Karl’s exploratory research in high energy density materials and related species has provided a view of chemical processes which have been broadly employed in academe and industrial applications. The corresponding view of borane chemistry provides a family of derivatives which sometimes mimic organic molecules and are similarly employed in both academe and industry. The fact that this award brings together a variety of chemical reactions points up the importance of such chemistry in the development of the chemical sciences.”

“It is a great honor and pleasure to have been chosen as the first recipient of the ACS M. Frederick Hawthorne Award in Main Group Inorganic Chemistry,” Christe said. “For the past six decades, Fred has been the main driving force in this field and the award in his name will help to establish his legacy as one of the world’s greatest inorganic chemists.” 

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(Left) As a group leader at Rohm and Haas’s rocket fuels research lab in Huntsville, Ala., in 1957, Hawthorne was working on the boron chemistry that led to the discovery of novel polyhedral boranes and carboranes. (Right) President Barack Obama awards the National Medal of Science to Hawthorne in a ceremony at the White House on February 1, 2013 in Washington, DC.

The idea for the award was formulated in 2017 by several former Hawthorne group members including Professors William J. Evans (UC Irvine), Alex Spokoyny (UCLA), Omar K. Farha (Northwestern) and R. Tom Baker (Ottawa) at the New Orleans ACS meeting. The group petitioned the ACS to establish the award that would permanently honor Hawthorne’s legacy and expand the ACS inorganic chemistry awards portfolio which historically emphasized work with transition metals and partially overlooked achievements in main group chemistry. The Hawthorne Award will help honor the advancements in science in the rest of the periodic table and has a stipulation that it is only given to researchers who make significant contributions to chemistry involving the elements of groups 1, 2, and 13-18, with special consideration given to demonstrated creativity and independence of thought, in keeping with the example provided by Hawthorne.

The group was able raise $300,000 to establish an endowment for the award and contributions included funds secured by Dean of Physical Sciences Miguel A. García-Garibay, former Chair of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry; UCLA; Hawthorne and his wife Diana; and alumni and friends.  

“Prof. Fred Hawthorne is one of the towering scientists who helped make UCLA the amazing research institution that it is today,” said García-Garibay. “We are thrilled to honor his legacy by recognizing main group inorganic chemists who are helping transform the world of chemistry just as he has done for so many years.”

“It is highly appropriate to honor Fred Hawthorne with this award since his contagious enthusiasm for science has inspired so many chemists,” said Hawthorne group alumnus Professor William J. Evans (Ph.D. ’74), UC Irvine. “This award will provide a legacy of encouragement for innovation in main group inorganic chemistry.”

“This award is a fitting tribute to a man whose creativity and passion for science instilled that same curiosity and drive in so many others,” said Hawthorne group alumna Dr. Donna Speckman (Ph.D. ’84), Senior Scientist, Energy Technology Department, The Aerospace Corporation.

Hawthorne received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Pomona College where he conducted research with Professor Corwin Hansch. He pursued his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at UCLA working with Nobel Laureate Professor Donald Cram. He conducted postdoctoral research at Iowa State University before joining the Redstone Arsenal Research Division of the Rohm and Haas Company in Huntsville, Alabama. At the Redstone Arsenal, Hawthorne pioneered the synthetic chemistry of boron hydrides. In 1962, he moved to the University of California, Riverside as professor of chemistry. He transferred to UCLA in 1969. In 1998, Hawthorne was appointed University Professor of Chemistry at UCLA, the most distinguished title bestowed upon faculty by the Regents of the University of California.

In 2006, Hawthorne retired and returned to his home state of Missouri as head of the International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine at University of Missouri where he is the Institutes Director and Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Radiology. He was long associated with the ACS journal Inorganic Chemistry, being the longest serving editor-in-chief. Hawthorne turned 92 on August 24, 2020.  

In April 2019, in honor of Hawthorne’s 90th birthday, an editorial about his research and its relevance today was featured in

Inorganic Chemistry


Over the course of his career Hawthorne received numerous awards and recognitions for his contributions and service to the chemistry community including American Chemical Society’s Priestley Medal (2009), King Faisal International Prize (2003) and National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama (2011).  Hawthorne’s National Medal of Science video can be viewed here.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,