Tribute to Professor Saul Winstein

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November 23, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the untimely death of noted scientist UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry professor Saul Winstein at age 57.

It is fitting that the 2019 Winstein Lecture will be given by Professor Bert Meijer from the Netherlands on November 7.

Professor Saul Winstein (1912-1969) was one of the leading physical organic chemists of the 1950s and ‘60s, employing the tools of physical chemistry to explore reactions in solution. He established much of what scientists know about solutions and ion pairs in organic reactions and he is known for the Winstein-Grunwald equation* that relates the rates of solvolysis reactions to the ionizing power of the solvent. Winstein is perhaps better known for his discovery of bridged, or “nonclassical” cations, now known to be quite common, but at the time of Winstein, a controversial subject.

Winstein At UCLAProfessor Saul Winstein at UCLA.

At the memorial service for Winstein, noted author, Irving Stone, said of Winstein: “I think this was a fortunate man, a man who realized his dream with nothing to go on but brains, character, integrity and self-discipline….”

A UCLA alumnus, Winstein received an A.B. degree in 1934 and his master’s degree in 1935.  He received his Ph.D. degree from the California Institute of Technology in 1938. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Caltech, he was a National Research Fellow at Harvard University from 1939-1940. Winstein was a UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty member from 1941 until his passing in 1969. In 1971, he was posthumously awarded the prestigious National Medal of Science.

Winstein’s wife, Sylvia Winstein, also a UCLA alumna, was a long-time supporter of the department until she passed away in 2009. His son Dr. Bruce Winstein (cosmologist, professor at University of Chicago and member of the NAS, deceased in 2011) and daughter Dr. Carolee Winstein (Professor of Neurology at USC), both also graduated from UCLA.

In 1984, Winstein’s family, friends, and UCLA faculty established the Saul Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry and the Winstein Lecture. The Chair has been held by Nobel Laureates Professors Donald Cram and Fraser Stoddart, and now by Professor Kendall Houk.

In 2004, the Saul and Sylvia Winstein Cafe Commons in Young Hall was dedicated in honor of the Winsteins.

In a biographical memoir about Winstein, UCLA chemistry faculty members Professors William G. Young and Donald Cram wrote: “Whatever he did, he did intensely and effectively. He rejected sloppy reasoning, would not tolerate poorly designed undertakings, and grew restless when faced with ambiguity, arbitrary decisions, or amorphous arguments. He applied the same kind of reasoning and intensity to learning a new field of chemistry as to learning how to dance, and he applied the same standards of excellence to each endeavor.”

* Dr. Ernest Grunwald was an undergraduate at UCLA and Ph.D. with Winstein and a benefactor of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts of the UCLA Hammer Museum and great physical organic chemist at Florida State, Bell Labs, and Brandeis University.