The award, established in 1963 to encourage and reward outstanding contributions to physical organic chemistry, will be presented to Saunders at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego California in March 2005.
Saunders will receive the award for his seminal contributions to the NMR spectroscopy, structures and rearrangements of carbocations, for a new methodology for conformational search, and for the study of fullerenes, containing noble gas atoms.
Saunders created new methods for studying carbocations -- one of the three main species of reactive intermediates in organic reactions including the formation of many natural substances such as the steroids.
The approach Saunders took was to create stable solutions of these normally highly reactive species, so that they could be studied by NMR. This allowed him to discover the detailed mechanisms and rates of very rapid rearrangement reactions of the cation intermediates.
Saunders received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, came to Yale as a member of the chemistry faculty in 1955 and has taught at Yale for 49 years. He has received notable awards from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.