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The Robert B. Woodward Collection


Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Robert Burns Woodward (1917-1979) was an American organic chemist and 1965 Nobel Prize winner. Born in Quincy, Massachusetts on April 10, 1917, Woodward earned his B.S. (1936) and Ph.D. (1937) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1937, following a short stint teaching at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, he accepted a position at Harvard University's Chemistry Department, where he remained for the rest of his life. At Harvard, he initially served as a Postdoctoral Fellow (1937-1938) and a Member of the Society of Fellows (1938-1941).

In 1941, Woodward joined the Harvard Chemistry Department faculty. He rose through the Chemistry Department's ranks, serving as Instructor (1941-1944), Assistant Professor (1944-1946), Associate Professor (1946-1950), Professor (1950-1953), Morris Loeb Professor of Chemistry (1953-1960), and Donner Professor of Science (1960-1979). In addition to his faculty duties, he also served as Director of the Woodward Research Institute in Basel, Switzerland.

Over the course of his scientific career, Woodward became a renowned specialist in the synthesis of organic substances. During the early 1940s, he employed ultraviolet spectroscopy to determine the molecular structures of natural products, including penicillin and strychnine. In 1944, Woodward and his post-doctoral researcher William von Eggers Doering became the first to synthesize quinine. In the early 1950s, Woodward and British chemist Geoffrey Wilkinson conducted research that led to the synthesis of ferrocene, which marked the beginning of the field of transition metal organometallic chemistry. By the mid-1960s, Woodward had successfully synthesized a number of other organic substances, including cortisone, strychnine, and chlorophyll. For his work in synthesizing complex organic substances, Woodward was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1965.

During the mid and late 1960s, Woodward worked with Polish-American chemist Roald Hoffman in developing the laws of the conservation of molecular orbital symmetry. Their work in this area, subsequently verified by many experiments, became known as the Woodward-Hoffman Rules. In 1972, Woodward and Swiss organic chemist Albert Eschenmoser succeeded in synthesizing Vitamin B12.

Robert B. Woodward authored numerous papers and journal articles over the course of his career. In addition to the Nobel Prize, he was the recipient of many other awards, including the National Medal of Science (1964) and the Royal Society's Copley Medal (1978).

Robert B. Woodward died of a heart attack in Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 8, 1979.


Papers of Robert Burns Woodward, Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Robert B. Woodward Collection, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Nobel Prize. "Robert B. Woodward, Biographical."

Arranged in its original order, the Robert B. Woodward Collection is a collection of miscellaneous archival materials concerning the life and scientific career of American organic chemist and 1965 Nobel Prize winner Robert B. Woodward. The materials in this collection were compiled and maintained by Croatian chemist Vinko Škarić. Subjects covered in this collection include Woodward's work in organic chemical synthesis, his research on inorganic superconductivity, and the Nobel Prize.

The contents of the Robert B. Woodward Collection consist of a variety of materials. Correspondence, manuscripts, reprints, and various printed materials are the most common materials found in this collection. Small amounts of other miscellaneous materials, including, but not limited to, drawings, notes, and qualifying examinations are preserved here as well.

The Robert B. Woodward Collection was donated to the Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation) by Vinko Škarić in 1992.

The Robert B. Woodward Collection was processed by Kenton G. Jaehnig in June 2024.

Science History Institute Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid created and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig and Sarah Newhouse.
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Use Restrictions

The Science History Institute holds copyright to the Robert B. Woodward Collection. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Collection Inventory

Woodward, Robert B. - American Chemical Society - Membership Cards, 1966-1968.
Box 1 Folder 1
Woodward, Robert B. - Correspondence (Mostly letters to Woodward on routine, non-scientific matters.), 1955-1978.
Box 1 Folder 2
Woodward, Robert B. - Ephemera, 1955, 1968, 1970.
Box 1 Folder 3
General Note

Contains a handbook for the 5th International Symposium on the Chemistry of Natural Products, a program for the 1955 Leo Hendrik Baekeland Award Ceremony, and a program for the Symposium on Chemical Crystallography 1928-1970 and Beyond.

Brown, R.F.C., V.M. Clark, J.O. Sutherland, and Sir Alexander Todd - "The Preparation of (I), Its Cobaltous and Cupric Complexes, and Its Tosyl" - Manuscript, 1970.
Box 1 Folder 4
Whangbo, Myung-Hwan and Roald Hoffman - "The Band Structure of the Tetracyanoplatinate Chain" - Manuscript, undated.
Box 1 Folder 5
Whangbo, Myung-Hwan, Roald Hoffman, and Robert B. Woodward - "Conjugated One- and Two-Dimensional Polymers" - Manuscript, undated.
Box 1 Folder 6
Woodward, Robert B. - "Synthesis of N-ethyl-5-phenylisoxazolium-3'-sulfonate" - Manuscript, undated.
Box 1 Folder 7
Woodward, Robert B. and Charles A. Lundberg - "A Total and Stereospecific Synthesis of d1-Ibogamine" - Manuscript, undated.
Box 1 Folder 8
Woodward, Robert B. - Miscellaneous, 1964-1974, undated.
Box 1 Folder 9
General Note

Contains a list of National Medal of Science Recipients, a manuscript of the paper "Total Synthesis of Delphinine: A Stereoselective Synthesis of an Advanced Relay" signed by Karel Wiesner, a color photograph of an unidentified individual, a handwritten mass spectrum form, and two copies of a "Dear Abby" newspaper column.

Harvard University - Chemistry Department - Qualifying Examinations, 1960-1975.
Box 1 Folder 10
Reprints (Autographed by their respective authors.), 1951-1979, undated.
Box 1 Folder 11
General Note

Contains reprints autographed by Fritz Krönke, J.R. Mahajan, B.D. Tilak, William P. Jencks, Ulli Eisner, Maria J. Vols de Lecea, Gilbert Stork, Tikam C. Jain, E.J. Cory, Pierre Deslongchamps, and Nien-chu C. Yang.

Woodward, Robert B. - Drawings on Inorganic Superconductivity, 1960-1961, 1977-1978, 1992.
Box 1 Folder 12
General Note

Contains 4 black and white slides.

Nobel Prize - 75th Anniversary - Re: Declaration on the Survival of Mankind and Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Correspondence, 1975.
Box 1 Folder 13
Nobel Prize Winners - Miscellaneous, 1965, 1977, undated.
Box 1 Folder 14
General Note

Contains materials regarding Nobel Prize winners Vladimir Prelog, Robert B. Woodward, and Donald J. Cram.

Nobel Prize - Publications, 1951-1975.
Box 1 Folder 15
Woodward, Robert B. - Peter Anthony Leermakers Symposium - Program (2 copies.), 1972.
Box 1 Folder 16

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