Richard Ernst received the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1991 for his contributions to the development of the methodology of high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.
Richard Ernst received the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1991 for his contributions to the development of the methodology of high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Prof. Ernst contributed to Fourier-transform NMR (FT-NMR), multi-dimensional NMR, medical magnetic resonance tomography and many other techniques. He was also strongly convinced that scientists and teachers have an important responsibility towards society and a decisive influence on global development.
Richard Ernst was born in 1933 in Winterthur, Switzerland, a city known for its art and industry. As a teenager, he doubted between becoming a chemist or a musical composer. Luckily for us, he decided to study chemistry at ETH and even read books on subjects that were not part of the standard curriculum. A book on theoretical chemistry inspired him to do a PhD on NMR. At that time NMR was an emerging field with much room for improvement, technically and theoretically. Hence, after his PhD Richard Ernst joined a company in the US that worked on commercialising NMR. He developed FT-NMR, but the paper got rejected twice and the company was not interested. In 1968, he joined ETH again, where he soon started to focus on the development of multi-dimensional spectroscopy. Prof. Ernst was a member of various committees, editor for numerous journals and continued to lecture on many topics all over the world after his retirement in 1991.
NMR is based on the interaction of proton and neutron spins with an external magnetic field. In FT-NMR a short pulse that excites all NMR active nuclei is used, in contrast to continuous wave NMR which sweeps through a frequency range. FT-NMR is faster and more sensitive. When several pulses are used, each with specific characteristics, a multidimensional spectrum can be constructed, which allows for the structural elucidation of complex systems. For example, the group of prof. Ernst closely collaborated with the group of prof. Wuthrich at ETH, who won the nobel prize for his NMR studies of biological macromolecules in solution. Whereas prof. Ernst doubted the usefulness of his PhD research in 1962, our society relies on his tools nowadays to find solutions for the most urgent and complex problems.
Did you know:
Did you know that Richard Ernst was on a flight to New York when the pilot called him in the cockpit, because he had received a phone call from the Nobel committee?
Did you know that Richard Ernst is committed to the conservation of central Asian painting art?
Did you know that Richard Ernst found a chemistry box from his uncle in the attic at age 13, which started his fascination for chemistry and frightened his parents?