About Richard Robert Ernst, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1991
Richard Robert Ernst (born August 14, 1933) is a Swiss physical chemist and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 1991, "for his contributions to the development of the methodology of high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy".
Born in Winterthur, Switzerland, Ernst was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1991 for his contributions towards the development of Fourier Transform nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy while at Varian Associates, Palo Alto and the subsequent development of multi-dimensional NMR techniques. These underpin applications of NMR both to chemistry (NMR spectroscopy) and to medicine (MRI). He also received Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize in 1991, as well as the Wolf Prize.
He studied and served as faculty at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, from which he is now retired. He is Honorary Doctor of the Technical University of Munich and University of Zurich.
He is member of the World Knowledge Dialogue Scientific Board.
Ernst received both his diploma in chemistry (1957) and his Ph.D. in physical chemistry (1962) from ETH Zürich. From 1963 to 1968 he worked as a research chemist in Palo Alto, Calif. In 1966, working with an American colleague, Ernst discovered that the sensitivity of NMR techniques (hitherto limited to analysis of only a few nuclei) could be dramatically increased by replacing the slow, sweeping radio waves traditionally used in NMR spectroscopy with short, intense pulses. His discovery enabled analysis of a great many more types of nuclei and smaller amounts of materials.
In 1968 he returned to Switzerland to teach at his alma mater. He was made assistant professor in 1970 and full professor in 1976. His second major contribution to the field of NMR spectroscopy was a technique that enabled a high-resolution, “two-dimensional” study of larger molecules than had previously been accessible to NMR. With Ernst's refinements, scientists were able to determine the three-dimensional structure of organic and inorganic compounds and of biological macromolecules such as proteins; to study the interaction between biological molecules and other substances such as metal ions, water, and drugs; to identify chemical species; and to study the rates of chemical reactions.
Ernst also was credited with many inventions and held several patents in his field.
He is a foreign fellow of Bangladesh Academy of Sciences The 2009 Bel Air Film Festival featured the world premiere of a documentary film on Ernst Science Plus Dharma Equals Social Responsibility. Produced by Carlo Burton, the film takes place in Ernst's hometown in Switzerland.
Richard R. Ernst Autobiography, from Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1991.