Science medal

President Clinton announced last week that renowned organic chemist Ralph F. Hirschmann will receive a 2000 National Medal of Science, one of 12 to be presented at a White House dinner Dec. 1.

“I feel that I’ve been very lucky in my career both at Merck and at the University of Pennsylvania in having extremely gifted collaborators without whom I would not have won this award. I’m just the lucky recipient,” said Hirschmann.

Hirschmann, the Rao Makineni Professor of Bio-organic Chemistry, contributed to the first chemical synthesis in solution of an enzyme, ribonuclease, in 1969. This event is regarded as one of synthetic organic chemistry’s most noteworthy achievements of the 20th century.

He is now working — with others, of course — in developing peptide-mimicking compounds.

With Hirschmann in charge of basic research, drug giant Merck developed the drug now used to combat river blindness, as well as widely-used drugs to treat hypertension, congestive heart failure and severe infection.


Originally published on November 30, 2000