University of Rochester

Prof. Richard S. Eisenberg Named to Tracy Hyde Harris Chair

March 1, 1996

Richard S. Eisenberg, whose work in organometallic and catalytic chemistry has significantly advanced research in that field, has been named to the Tracy Hyde Harris Professorship of Chemistry.

"For more than a century, the Tracy Hyde Harris chair has been held by scientists and mathematicians of extraordinary accomplishment," said Richard Aslin, vice provost and dean of the College. "Professor Eisenberg fits the mold: His work in modeling catalytic reactions commands the respect of chemists all over the world."

Over his career, Eisenberg has published more than 160 papers on subjects ranging from the activation of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and other small molecules for industrially important reactions, to the preparation of new luminescent metal compounds and their photochemistry.

Eisenberg's work addresses the fundamental problem in catalysis of making stable molecules and bonds reactive in order to promote chemical transformations of interest. Recent studies have focused on metal hydrides and novel uses of magnetic resonance to follow hydrogenation reactions.

Another line of investigation in Eisenberg's laboratory is the development of an artificial photosynthesis system for the conversion of light to stored chemical energy in the form of hydrogen. This research provides scientific underpinnings for advances in the realm of solar energy conversion.

Eisenberg's interests extend to curriculum innovation in chemistry. With support from the Dreyfus Foundation and National Science Foundation, Eisenberg and colleague James M. Farrar have developed a new curriculum for first-year chemistry based on energy and the environment. The curriculum is now being presented in Chemistry 105 and 106. Eisenberg has lectured on this work at chemical education conferences as well as at the Dreyfus Foundation. During Eisenberg's tenure as department chair, the upper level laboratories were completely revised and refurbished with a $500,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation.

In addition to his research and teaching, Eisenberg has served as chair of the Division of Inorganic Chemistry and chair of the Organometallic Subdivision of the American Chemical Society; chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Organometallic Chemistry; advisory board member for the Petroleum Research Fund and the Journal of the American Chemical Society; and panel member for various NSF programs.

Currently, Eisenberg is on sabbatical leave, working at Los Alamos National Laboratory on reaction chemistry and catalysis in supercritical fluids while learning about nuclear materials and problems associated with nuclear waste disposal.

Eisenberg has previously been awarded prestigious Sloan and Guggenheim Fellowships, and has held visiting appointments and lectureships at the California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago in this country, and abroad at Cambridge University in England, the University of Rennes in France, and the Chemical Research Promotion Center in the Republic of China.

A native of New York City, Eisenberg earned his bachelor's and doctoral degrees from Columbia University in 1963 and 1967. He taught at Brown University from 1967 to 1973, and then joined the Rochester faculty where he was promoted to full professor in 1976. He was chair of the Chemistry Department from 1991-1994.

The Tracy Hyde Harris Professorship was established in 1870. Mr. Harris was a Baptist merchant from New York City who left a bequest for a chair that would be endowed in his name. Others who have held this are Isaac F. Quinby (mathematics), 1870-84; Otis H. Robinson (mathematics), 1884-1903; Henry E. Lawrence, physics, 1903-34; Lee A. DuBridge, physics, 1934-46; George B. Collins, physics, 1946-50; Robert E. Marshak, physics, 1952-60; Johannes F. K. Holtfreter, biology, 1964-69; and Jacob Bigeleisen, chemistry, 1973-78; John R. Huizenga, chemistry, 1978-1993; and George McLendon, chemistry, 1993-1995.