John M. Prausnitz

National Medal of Science

Engineering

For his development of engineering-oriented molecular thermodynamics, which provides a scientific method for the design, construction, and operation of chemical manufacturing plants toward economic efficiency, safety, minimum energy consumption, and environmental protection.

For his development of engineering-oriented molecular thermodynamics, which provides a scientific method for the design, construction, and operation of chemical manufacturing plants toward economic efficiency, safety, minimum energy consumption, and environmental protection.

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Birth
January 7, 1928
Age Awarded
75
Country of Birth
Germany
Key Contributions
Development Of Molecular Thermodynamic Models
Awarded by
George W. Bush
Education
Cornell University
Princeton University
Areas of Impact
Energy & Environment
Affiliations
University of California, Berkeley
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Chemistry whiz John M. Prausnitz certainly has an impressive array of scientific achievements. During his more than a half-century as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s College of Chemistry, Prausnitz developed molecular thermodynamics, the study of how molecules interact with solids and liquids to affect the properties of the substances they constitute. His work helped improve the processes by which many of the products on which the world now depends are produced. Plastics, gasoline, and paint can all be made in ways that are safer, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly thanks to the contributions Prausnitz has made.

But for all his achievement in the lab, Prausnitz hardly fits into the typecast of the insular scientist engrossed in his work. In fact, when asked about his “proudest achievement” during an interview with Annual Reviews Conversations, Prausnitz cited a moment when he and his grad students affixed hooks to the wall of a small classroom, so students had a place to hang rain gear on wintry days. Often drawing his greatest inspiration from diversity in relationships, experiences, and academic inquiry, perhaps Prausnitz can be said to reflect his field of study – just as the properties of substances are influenced by the properties of their constituent molecules, he too has been shaped by embracing that which is different.

By Jeremy Gordon

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