William Nunn Lipscomb Jr.
American physical chemist who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in
1976 for his research on the structure and bonding of boron compounds
and the general nature of chemical bonding.
Lipscomb graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1941 and earned
his Ph.D. in 1946 from the California Institute of Technology. He worked
as a physical chemist in the Office of Science Research and Development
from 1942 to 1946 and then joined the University of Minnesota as assistant
professor. By 1959, when he left the university, he was professor and
chief of the physical chemistry division. He then became professor of
chemistry at Harvard University, where he served as chairman of the
department of chemistry from 1962 to 1965. By developing X-ray techniques
that later proved useful in many chemical applications, Lipscomb and
his associates were able to map the molecular structures of numerous
boranes and their derivatives. Boranes are compounds of boron and hydrogen.
The stability of boranes could not be explained by traditional concepts
of electron bonding, in which each pair of atoms is linked by a pair
of electrons, because boranes lacked sufficient electrons. Lipscomb
showed how a pair of electrons could be shared by three atoms. His theory
successfully served to describe boranes and many other analogous structures.
Lipscomb wrote Boron Hydrides (1963) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
Studies of Boron and Related Compounds (1969).