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Harden M. McConnell

Updated: 2016-05-31T15:11Z

Harden M. McConnell (July 18, 1927 – October 8, 2014) was a scientist – one of the leading physical chemists of the last 50 years. His work provided the foundation for many areas within science today, and has been internationally recognized by the many awards he has received, including the National Medal of Science, the Wolf Prize, and election to the National Academy of Science."[1]

Education and career

Harden earned a B.S. degree in chemistry from George Washington University in 1947, and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1951 with Norman Davidson. After serving for two years as a National Research Fellow in physics at the University of Chicago with Robert S. Mulliken and John Platt, he held a position as research chemist at Shell Development Company. He was recruited by Norman Davidson, John D. Roberts, and Linus Pauling at the California Institute of Technology in 1956 as Assistant Professor of Chemistry, he was promoted to Professor of Chemistry and Physics in 1963, and in 1964 he moved to Stanford University as a professor. In 1979 he was named Robert Eckles Swain Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University. From September 1989 to September 1992, he was Head of the Department of Chemistry at Stanford. On September 1, 2000, Harden was granted Emeritus status.[2][3][4]


He did important research to the understanding of the relation between molecular electronic structure and electron and nuclear magnetic resonance spectra during the period of 1955 through 1965. After that, he developed the technique of spin-labels, whereby electron and nuclear magnetic resonance spectra can be used to study the structure and kinetics of proteins and membranes.[2]

He recognized that the discovery of nuclear hyperfine interactions in aromatic free radicals represented a major breakthrough in the study of the electronic structure of unsaturated hydrocarbons. His theoretical and experimental studies of nuclear hyperfine interactions in such compounds showed conclusively that this interaction gave a measure of the unpaired electron spin densities on the carbon atoms (see McConnell equation for details). His theoretical and experimental investigations of the anisotropic nuclear hyperfine interactions laid a firm foundation for the analysis of the paramagnetic resonance spectra of organic free radicals in. molecular crystals. His work also provided the first experimental demonstration of a negative spin density at a proton. He also realized that certain nitric oxide free radicals had the potential of providing labels for studying molecular motions. His introduction of 'spin labels' has led to a deep understanding of such motions, and to extensive applications in many biological systems of great interest. These motions include the rates of translational diffusion of lipids in bilayer membranes as well as the rates of trans membrane phospholipid "flip-flop". In fact nitric oxide free radical "spin labels" provided some of the earliest evidence for the fluidity of biological membranes.[2][5]

His recent research was concerned with the physical chemistry of biological membranes. These studies range all the way from lipid monolayers at the air-water interface to the regions of membrane-membrane contact that are important in immunology. An important contribution was the introduction of supported lipid bilayers to mimic cell surfaces. For example, this system was used to mimic antigen presentation whereby a specific molecule of the major histocompatibility complex is incorporated into the bilayer, a specific antigenic peptide is added, and the combined system used to stimulate a specific T - helper cell.[6]

In 1983 McConnell founded Molecular Devices Corporation along with three former graduate students and post docs (Gillian Humphries, j. Wallace Parce and Dean Hafeman) together with a talented engineer, Calvin Chow. The company produced instrumentation for biochemical analysis and drug discovery. The company had over 1,000 employees when it was acquired in 2007. McConnell served on the Board of Directors between 1983 and 2007.[7]

"The majority of the 150 scientists who worked with Harden as graduate students, postdocs, and senior colleagues, attended a symposium on April 4, 1992, at Stanford University, in celebration of Harden's 65th birthday. As an outgrowth of that symposium, these scientists organized special issues of the Biophysical Journal[8] and The Journal of Physical Chemistry[9] to present current aspects of their work and his. Several other scientists whose work has been influenced by McConnell's contributed articles also. The symposium and these papers provide powerful testimony to the profound impact that Harden McConnell has had in the fields of chemical physics, molecular biophysics, and cellular biophysics. McConnell's influence comes not only from his own impressive publication list, but also from the scores of scientists whose careers he has inspired, by his example of intellectual brilliance, and personal integrity."[5] "The McConnell Book: Biographical Sketches and Memoirs of Students and Lab Associates in Celebration of Harden M. McConnell's 65th Birthday," was also published.[10] An updated and expanded version of Harden's research and publications is available as a website.[11]

Awards and honours

He was awarded the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 1983/84 for "his studies of the electronic structure of molecules through paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy and for the introduction and biological applications of spin label techniques".[12]

He has also received several awards and honours. Following are the awards and honours received by Dr. McConnell.

Personal life

Harden M. McConnell was born on July 18, 1927, in Richmond, Virginia and his interest in science, particularly chemistry, began when he discovered a box of copper sulfate crystals in the basement of his home at the approximate age of 12. Harden died on Wednesday, October 8, 2014, following a long illness. He is survived by his widow Sophia, two sons, Hunter and Trevor, a daughter, Jane, a daughter-in-law, Oksana, and one granddaughter.


  1. ^ Keith Hodgson, Chair of the Stanford Chemistry Department, in a Departmental email message announcing Harden's death, October 10, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Hayes Griffith; Betty J. Gaffney; Alvin L. Kwiram (1993). "Harden M. McConnell: A Celebration of His Scientific Achievements". Journal of Physical Chemistry. 97 (12): 2805–2822. doi:10.1021/j100114a001. 
  3. ^ "Report of the President to the Board of Trustees - Faculty Emeritus Titles." Stanford Report, April 12, 2000. (accessed October 11, 2014)
  4. ^ "Harden M. McConnell, Professor Emeritus," Stanford Chemistry Department (accessed October 10, 2014).
  5. ^ a b David D. Thomas; Betty J. Gaffney; O.Hayes Griffith (March 1993). "Harden M. McConnell: The Science Speaks for Itself". Biophysical Journal. 64 (3): 573–960. doi:10.1016/S0006-3495(93)81415-2. 
  6. ^ Harden McConnell (2010). "Adventures in Physical Chemistry". Annual Review of Biophysics. 39: 1–21. doi:10.1146/annurev.biophys.093008.131315. 
  7. ^ > Addendum I: Molecular Devices Corporation (accessed October 11, 2014)
  8. ^ Biophysical Journal Volume 64, Issue 3, Pages 573-960 (March 1993) (This issue is made freely available as part of this journal's Open Archive.) (accessed October 11, 2014).
  9. ^ The Journal of Physical Chemistry, Volume 97, Issue 12, Pages 2805-3075, March 1, 1993 (accessed October 11, 2014)
  10. ^ McConnell, Harden M. 1992. "The McConnell Book: Biographical Sketches and Memoirs of Students and Lab Associates In Celebration of Harden M. McConnell's 65th Birthday, 1992." [Stanford, Calif.?: s.n.], 1992.
  11. ^ (accessed October 11, 2014)
  12. ^ The Wolf Prize in Chemistry
  13. ^ "ACS Award in Pure Chemistry" American Chemical Society > National Awards (accessed October, 10, 2014)
  14. ^ "Harden McConnell." National Academy of Sciences > Member Directory(accessed October, 10, 2014)
  15. ^ "Harrison Howe Award." Chemical and Engineering News, 1968, 46 (38), pp 36–39. DOI: 10.1021/cen-v046n038.p036 (accessed October 11, 2014)
  16. ^ "Irving Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics." American Chemical Society > National Awards (accessed October, 10, 2014)
  17. ^ "Harden M. McConnell Winner of Wolf Prize in Chemistry - 1983/1984" Wolf Foundation(accessed October, 10, 2014)
  18. ^ "Harden McConnell wins Pauling Award". Chemical and Engineering News. 65 (51): 45. 1987. doi:10.1021/cen-v065n051.p045. Retrieved October 11, 2014. 
  19. ^ "NAS Award in Chemical Sciences." National Academy of Sciences > Awards (accessed October, 10, 2014)
  20. ^ Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences > Honors and Awards > National Medal of Science (accessed October 11, 2014)
  21. ^ "Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry." American Chemical Society > National Awards (accessed October, 10, 2014)
  22. ^ "McConnell named to the first class of Society Fellows of the Biophysical Society." Stanford Report, October 6, 1999
  23. ^ "Harden McConnell named winner of 2002 Welch Award in Chemistry." Stanford Report, June 5, 2002

External links

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