ACS President: George C. Pimentel (1922-1989)

Served as President: 1986

At age 45, he applied to become a scientist-astronaut. NASA ranked him first among the approximately 1,000 applicants. A minor abnormality in one retina prevented him from joining NASA’s program

Royalties from CHEM Study textbook, edited by Pimentel, were paid to US Treasury and repaid entire cost of CHEM Study project one and a half times


  • Ph.D., 1949, University of California, Berkeley, Chemistry

Career Highlights:

  • Manhattan Project, Berkeley, 1943–1944
  • Professor, chemistry, UC Berkeley, 1949-1989
  • Director, University of California Berkeley’s Laboratory of Chemical Biodynamics
  • Associate director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Notable Accomplishments:

Developed the matrix isolation technique to trap free radicals thus allowing spectroscopic study. Unlocked the secret for converting chemical energy directly into laser light. He is identified as the father of the chemical laser. His high-speed infrared spectroscopic techniques proved adaptable to the devising of instruments for remotely determining the composition of the atmosphere and surface of Mars, yielding dramatic findings in the space missions of Mariners 6 and 7. Edited all CHEM Study publications and, thus, made a significant contribution to a major revision in high school chemical education.

Major Awards and Honors:

  • Elected member, National Academy of Sciences, 1966
  • Wolf Prize, Chemistry, Israel, 1982
  • National Medal of Science, 1985
  • Franklin Medal, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA, 1985
  • Welch Award, Welch Institute, Houston, TX, 1986
  • Priestley Medal, ACS, 1989
  • ACS George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education named in his honor posthumously

Service to Science:

  • Deputy Director, funding and public understanding of scientific research, National Science Foundation, Washington DC, 1977-1980
  • Chair, National Research Council committee that produced the 1985 report “Opportunities in Chemistry”. Organized and edited the report which is now known as the “Pimentel Report”
  • Member, NASA Lunar and Planetary Missions Board, 1967 – 1970

Did You Know

. . . that he wrote 5 and narrated 2 of the 26 films CHEM Study films?

. . . that he selected his own epitaph, “He came to the ball park every day and he let them know he came to play”.

. . . that the main chemistry lecture hall at UC Berkeley is named in his honor, 1 Pimentel Hall?

Former ACS President George C. Pimentel