Robert G. Bergman
2002 Monie A. Ferst Award
University of California at Berkeley chemistry professor Robert G. Bergman was trained as an organic chemist and spent the first part of his career at Caltech investigating the mechanisms of organic reactions. He also developed methods for the generation and study of unusually reactive molecules. In 1972 he discovered what was later identified as a crucial DNA-cleaving reaction in several antibiotics that bind to nucleic acids, a reaction that came to be known as the “Bergman cyclization.” In the mid-l970s his research broadened to include organo-metallic chemistry. Since moving to Berkeley he has made contributions to the synthesis and chemistry of several types of organo-transition metal complexes and to improving our understanding of the mechanisms of their reactions. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Berkeley chemist has received many accolades in his career, including the Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholar Award and the John Bailar Medal from the University of Illinois. The American Chemical Society has given him its Award in Organo-metallic Chemistry, the Arthur C. Cope Award and the James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry. His honors also include the Caltech Student Government Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Edward Leete Award for Teaching and Research in Organic Chemistry from the American Chemical Society and the University of California Department of Chemistry Teaching Award.