Dudley Herschbach:
Chemical Reactions and Molecular Beams

Resources with Additional Information

Dudley Herschbach
Courtesy of
Texas A&M University

As a co-recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 'Dudley Herschbach was cited for "providing a much more detailed understanding of how chemical reactions take place". Using molecular beams, he studied elementary reactions such as K + CH3I and K + Br2, where it became possible to correlate reaction dynamics with the electronic structures of reactants and products. Exchanges proceeded through a persistent complex that lasted for many rotational periods, with product angular distributions reflecting the degree of reagent entanglement. Later this work was extended to H + Cl2, Cl + HI, halogen substitution reactions with vinyl and allyl halides, as well as such systems as Xe + Ar2 → XeAr + Ar. Herschbach has been a pioneer in the measurement and theoretical interpretation of vector properties of reaction dynamics, a field known as "molecular stereodynamics".

Herschbach was born in San Jose, California and studied at Stanford and Harvard. After a period on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley (1959-1963) he returned to Harvard'1 where he was the Baird Professor of Science (1976-2003) and is now a Research Professor (Emeritus). He became a professor of physics at Texas A&M University in September 1, 2005.

1 Edited excerpt from Dudley Robert Herschbach

Resources with Additional Information

Additional information about Dudley R. Herschbach, chemical reactions, and molecular beams is available in electronic documents and on the Web.


Anharmonic Potential Constants and Their Dependence Upon Bond Length, DOE Technical Report, January 1961

Reactive Collisions in Crossed Molecular Beams, DOE Technical Report, February 1962

The Determination of Molecular Structure from Rotational Spectra, DOE Technical Report, July 1962

Proposed Molecular Beam Determination of Energy Partition in the Photodissociation of Polyatomic Molecules, DOE Technical Report, January 1964


Additional Web Pages:

Understanding Chemical Reactions

Remarks in Honor of Dudley Herschbach

Dudley R. Herschbach, Harvard Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Teaching Chemistry as a Liberal Art, ­The Harvard University Gazette

1991 National Medal of Science

Interview with Dudley R. Herschbach, Nobelprize.org  (video)

Dudley Herschbach, National Academy of Sciences InterViews (video)

Conversations with History: Science and Society, with Dudley Herschbach, University of California Television (UCTV) (video)

Intimate Encounters with Molecules: Taming Molecular Wildness; Hitchcock Lecture by Dudley Herschbach; University of California Television (UCTV) (video)

Intimate Encounters with Molecules: Breaking and Making Chemical Bonds; Hitchcock Lecture by Dudley Herschbach; University of California Television (UCTV) (video)

"Linus Pauling as an Evangelical Chemist", Dudley Herschbach at Oregon State University


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