John Pople, former Carnegie Mellon professor and 1998 Nobel Laureate, died March 15-Mellon College of Science - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, March 18, 2004

John Pople, former Carnegie Mellon professor and 1998 Nobel Laureate, died March 15

John A. Pople, former John C. Warner University Professor Natural Science at Carnegie Mellon University and 1998 Nobel Laureate, died March 15 in Chicago. Pople, affiliated with the Mellon Institute for more than 30 years, helped to create the field of computational quantum chemistry, making possible the detailed analysis of matter. Specifically, he received the Nobel for using fundamental laws of quantum mechanics to develop "computational methods making possible the theoretical study of molecules, their properties and how they act together in chemical reactions."

"We are deeply saddened to learn of John's passing. As a pioneer of his field, he transformed our ability to conduct research and inspired generations of scientists to build upon his legacy," said Richard D. McCullough, dean of the Mellon College of Science.

"Pople has revolutionized the way we do quantum mechanics of electrons in molecules," said Hyung Kim, chairman of the department of chemistry. "His methods are widely used by both theorists and experimentalists in academia and industry to study electronic properties of molecular systems. His passing is a huge loss not just to chemistry but also to the entire scientific community."

Pople credited Carnegie Mellon as the site where almost all his Nobel-prize winning research was conducted, according to an online autobiographical sketch. The Mellon Institute was pivotal in helping him implement computational methods to understand chemistry. "Mellon Institute acquired a Control Data machine in 1966 and my group was able to make rapid progress in the dingy basement of that classic building," he said.

Born in 1925 in England, Pople received his doctorate in mathematics at Cambridge University. He came to the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Mellon Institute from 1961 to 1962, returning in 1964. In 1986, he joined the faculty of Northwestern University. He continued in his research and educational activities at Carnegie Mellon until his retirement in 1993.

Pople received numerous other major awards for his work, including the Wolf Prize in 1992, an honor that is considered equivalent to the Nobel Prize; the American Chemical Society's 1998 Award in Theoretical Chemistry; the 2002 Copley Medal from the Royal Society; and an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University in 2001.