WASHINGTON, June 10, 2013 — Stephen J. Lippard, Ph.D., Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, will receive the 2014 Priestley Medal from the American Chemical Society (ACS). It is the highest honor bestowed by the world’s largest scientific society.
ACS is honoring Lippard for “mentoring legions of scientists in the course of furthering the basic science of inorganic chemistry and paving the way for improvements in human health.” The award, which ACS has presented since 1923, includes a gold medallion commemorating the work of Joseph Priestley. Priestley lived from 1733 to 1804, and is best remembered for his 1774 discovery of the gas that would later be named “oxygen.”
“Steve Lippard is a wonderful choice,” said Marinda Li Wu, Ph.D., president of the ACS. “He made key scientific contributions that improve life for Earth and its people. They range from the development of more effective medications for cancer to new ways of sustaining a cleaner environment. Steve also has been an outstanding educator and mentor for generations of younger scientists who will continue that work into the 21st century.”
Lippard’s more than 100 Ph.D. students, 150 postdoctoral scholars and hundreds of undergraduates include many who have gone on to become prominent scientists and teachers in their own right.
“Steve helped to create the field of bioinorganic chemistry,” said former student Jacqueline K. Barton, Ph.D., now a noted chemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology. “He has also been a true leader in the chemical community through his writing, his outstanding teaching and mentoring of students and his service to the community.”
In one major achievement, for instance, Lippard’s team discovered metallointercalators, planar metal complexes that can attach to the fabled double helix of the genetic material, DNA, in a way that unwinds the DNA without forming a covalent bond to it. This work formed the foundation for his subsequent research that provided a better understanding of the mechanism of action of cisplatin — sometimes termed “the penicillin of cancer” for its wide-ranging effects — and opened the door to efforts to develop more effective anti-cancer medications.
During a five-decade career, Lippard authored more than 830 scientific papers and dozens of patents. Along with Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., Lippard co-authored “Principles of Bioinorganic Chemistry,” which has been a leading text in the field for nearly 20 years. His numerous awards and honors include the National Medal of Science and his election to the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Lippard and his wife, Judy, have two sons, Josh and Alex, daughter-in-law Sandra and twin granddaughters, Lucy and Annie. His life out of the lab includes playing the harpsichord, jogging and being a stalwart fan of the Boston Red Sox.