1961 Anton B. Burg, USC

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Second Tolman Award Recipient
Professor Anton B. Burg, Head of the Deparment of Chemistry, University of Southern California

The second Tolman Award recipient has a habit of following the old copybook maxim, “Luck favors the prepared mind.” The research career of Professor Anton B. Burg has included so many obviously accidental discoveries that one might well ask “How does he do it? Is this a system?” The answer seems to be affirmative, for his 80 research publications show many experiments so planned that something would have to happen, although nobody could predict what. Then the actual result might well open new lines of research or challenge theorists to restudy their postulates. His Ph.D. dissertation (1931) was an early example: Working under the late Professor H. I. Schlesinger at the University of Chicago, he set out to make pure boron by passing boron tricholide with hydrogen through an electric discharge, but soon found the experiment developing into a very effective synthesis of diborane (B2H6. This process, which the best theorists of that time would have called strictly impossible, began to be understood twenty years later. In the meantime, it represented the beginning of American work in a rare field of inorganic chemistry which has since developed a wide variety of values: industrial, military, for organic chemistry, and for the general advance of chemical understanding.

Coming to the University of Southern California in 1939, Dr. Burg soon was asked to serve as Head of the Department of Chemistry (1940). During the war, he aided the defense effort through a project whereby he gained useful experience with unusual volatile fluorides and other exotic compounds. Afterwards, he returned happily to the boron hydrides — with especial concentration after giving up the Department Headship in favor of a rotating system (1950). At the same time, he maintained a strong interest in the broader chemistry of the non-metallic elements, including new work on usual ionizing solvents and light-element complexes. In recent times, he has gained international recognition for studies of inorganic polymers and the discovery of some very exotic fluorocarbon-phosphorus compounds; and (guess what!) he managed to tie the boron hydrides into those fields too. Most recently he has shown that phosphorus can form homocyclic and chain compounds much in the manner of carbon, with a great wealth of possible new chemistry to come not only from changing the substituents on the chains or rings, but also by utilizing both the electron-donor and electron-acceptor properties of the phosphorus atom.

Southern California Section April Meeting

Friday, April 6, 1962

Roger Young Auditorium
936 West Washington Boulevard
Los Angeles

Speaker: Professor Anton B. Burg, Head of the Department of Chemistry
University of Southern California
and Second Tolman Award Recipient

Subject: “New Covalent Chemistry of Some Non-Metallic Elements”

Abstract: The 1962 medalist plans to talk about some of the highlights of his long career — not in the manner of a detailed review of some unusual chemistry, but rather to tell about how it all happened. He thinks he had a lot of luck with his research (including some very able colleagues) and looks forward to the chance to share some of the fun with those of our members who are kind enough to come and listen.

Dinner: 6:45 p.m. ($4.00), Technical Meeting: 8:00 p.m. Those unable to make the dinner are urged to attend the talk.

For Reservations, call June or Eileen Hansen, Administrative Secretary, ACS, RIchmond 8-7707, or mail coupon to: American Chemical Society, 1007 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles 15


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Chairman John Bills presents the Tolman Medal to Anton Burg
April 6, 1962

Dr. Anton B. Burg, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Southern California, was awarded the second annual Richard C. Tolman Medal of the Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society. The Award was presented at the April 6, 1962 meeting by Dr. John L. Bills, Chairman of the Section.

Professor Burg was chosen to receive the Award in recognition of his researches which have led to a position of internationally recognized stature in the field of boron compounds; for his leadership in promoting a resurgence of interest in inorganic research, particularly in the field of phosphorous chemistry; for his contribution to the chemical community of Southern California through his personal leadership in building the Chemistry Department at the University of Southern California to a position of national eminence; and for his contribution to the Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society by long, faithful, and effective service on many committees and as Chairman of the Section.

Following the Award, Dr. Burg addressed the Southern California Section on “New Covalent Chemistry for Some Nonmetallic Elements”.

The Tolman Medal was established in 1961 by the Southern California Section in honor of Dr. Richard C. Tolman in recognition of his breadth of interest and contribution to the development in the field of chemistry in Southern California. The Award recognizes outstanding Southern California chemists for broad accomplishments in chemistry rather than a single fundamental discovery. Competition is not limited to U. S. citizens or members of the American Chemical Society.