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Penn chemist Ralph F. Hirschmann among 12 scientists selected to receive the 2000 National Medal of Science

PHILADELPHIA -- President Bill Clinton announced today that University of Pennsylvania chemist Ralph F. Hirschmann, Ph.D., is among 12 recipients of the 2000 National Medal of Science. Hirschmann and his fellow honorees will receive their medals at a White House dinner Dec. 1.

Hirschmann, the Rao Makineni Professor of Bioorganic Chemistry, joined Penn in 1987 after retiring as Mercks senior vice president of basic research. He was affiliated with Merck for 37 years, during which time he contributed to the development of several important drugs. He has fostered interdisciplinary research as well as collaborations between academia and industry while at Merck and since coming to Penn.

"These exceptional scientists and engineers have transformed our world and enhanced our daily lives," the President said. "Their imagination and ingenuity will continue to inspire future generations of American scientists to remain at the cutting edge of scientific discovery and technological innovation."

A half-dozen widely used medications stem from Hirschmanns tenure as Mercks head of basic research, including the parasite-fighting Ivomec, now used to combat river blindness in developing nations. The work of his colleagues at Merck has also led to drugs to treat hypertension, congestive heart failure, severe infection and hypercholesterolemia.

Hirschmanns seminal contributions to organic and medicinal chemistry also include the first chemical synthesis in solution of an enzyme, ribonuclease, in 1969, regarded as one of synthetic organic chemistrys noteworthy achievements of the 20th Century. Early in his career, in 1952, he discovered that chemical transformations can be controlled at the same time by both the disposition of electrons and the geometric arrangement of atoms. This concept, which Hirschmann termed stereoelectronic control, has gained great importance in chemistry.

"This is a truly great honor and we offer our warmest congratulations to an ex
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Contact: Steve Bradt
bradt@pobox.upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
13-Nov-2000


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