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Donald J. Cram

Donald James Cram
Born April 22, 1919
Chester, Vermont
Died June 17, 2001 (aged 82)
Palm Desert, California[1]
Nationality American
Fields chemistry
Institutions UCLA, Merck & Co, MIT
Alma mater Rollins College
University of Nebraska
Harvard University
Doctoral advisor Louis Fieser
Known for Cram's rule
Host guest chemistry
phenonium ions
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1987)
Glenn T. Seaborg Medal (1989)
National Medal of Science (1993)
Guggenheim fellowship (1955)

Donald James Cram (April 22, 1919 – June 17, 2001) was an American chemist who shared the 1987 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Jean-Marie Lehn and Charles J. Pedersen "for their development and use of molecules with structure-specific interactions of high selectivity." They were the founders of the field of host-guest chemistry.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Research 2.1
    • Professor 2.2
    • Bibliography 2.3
    • Awards and honors 2.4
  • Personal life 3
  • External links 4
  • References 5

Early life

Cram was born[2] and raised in Chester, Vermont, to a Scottish immigrant father, and a German immigrant mother. His father died before Cram turned four, leaving him the only male in a family of five. He grew up on Aid to Dependent Children, and learned to work at an early age, doing jobs such as picking fruit, tossing newspapers, and painting houses, while bartering for piano lessons. By the time he turned eighteen, he had worked at least eighteen different jobs.[3]

Cram attended the Winwood High School in Long Island, N.Y.[4] From 1938 to 1941, he attended Rollins College, in Winter Park, Florida on a national honorary scholarship, where he worked as an assistant in the chemistry department, and was active in theater, chapel choir, Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Society, and Zeta Alpha Epsilon. It was at Rollins that he became known for building his own chemistry equipment. In 1941, he graduated from Rollins College with a B.S. in Chemistry.[3]

In 1942, he graduated from the

  1. ^ a b Donald J. Cram. "Autobiography".  
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Donald Cram, Nobel Laureate and UCLA Chemist, Dies at 82" (Press release).  
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Donald J. Cram, Ph.D.: A 1941 Rollins College Chemistry Alumnus and winner of the 1987 Nobel Prize in Chemistry". Retrieved 2010-09-25. 
  4. ^ James, Laylin K. (1994). Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 1901-1992. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society and Chemical Heritage Foundation. pp. 146pp.  
  5. ^ University of Nebraska Research Library entry
  6. ^ Harvard Library Hollis search
  7. ^ Studies in Stereochemistry. X. The Rule of "Steric Control of Asymmetric Induction" in the Syntheses of Acyclic Systems Donald J. Cram, Fathy Ahmed Abd Elhafez J. Am. Chem. Soc.; 1952; 74(23); 5828-5835. Abstract
  8. ^ Juyoung Yoon, Carolyn B. Knobler, Emily F. Maverick and Donald J. Cram (1997). "Dissymmetric new hemicarcerands containing four bridges of different lengths".  
  9. ^ National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science


  • Nobel Prize Donald Cram autobiography
  • Photograph, Biography and Bibliographic Resources, from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, United States Department of Energy
  • Rollins College Biography
  • UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. (A tribute in pictures and collected speeches.)Donald Cram: A Life in Pictures,
  • "Donald Cram, Nobel Laureate and UCLA Chemist, Dies at 82,'" undated.UCLA News,Harlan Lebo and Stuart Wolpert,
  • in memoriamUniversity of California
  • Donald Cram quotations from the BrainyQuote Web site.

External links

In 2001, Cram died of cancer at the age of 82.[2]

Cram once admitted that his career wasn't without sacrifice. His first wife was Rollins classmate, Jean Turner, who also graduated in 1941, and went on to receive a master's degree in social work from Columbia University. His second wife, Jane, is a former chemistry professor at Mt. Holyoke College. Cram chose not to have any children, "because I would either be a bad father or a bad scientist."[3]

Personal life

Awards and honors

  1. Cram, Donald J.; Jane M. Cram (1994). Container Molecules and their Guests. Great Britain: Royal Society of Chemistry. pp. 223 pp.  
  2. Cram, Donald J. (1990). From Design to Discovery. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society. pp. 146pp. 
  3. Cram, Jane M.; Donald J. Cram (1978). The Essence of Organic Chemistry. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley. pp. 456pp. 
  4. Hendrickson, James B.; Donald J. Cram; George S. Hammond (1970). Organic Chemistry. Reading, Massachusetts: McGraw-Hill. pp. 1279pp. 3rd ed. 
  5. Richards, John; Don Cram; George S. Hammond (1967). Elements of organic chemistry. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 444pp. 
  6. Cram, Donald J. (1965). Fundamentals of Carbanion Chemistry. New York: Academic Press. pp. 289pp. 
  7. Cram, Donald J.; George S. Hammond (1964). Organic Chemistry. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 846pp. 2nd ed. 
  8. Cram, Donald J.; George S. Hammond (1959). Organic Chemistry. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 712pp. 1st ed. 


Technical Reports:


"An investigator starts research in a new field with faith, a foggy idea, and a few wild experiments. Eventually the interplay of negative and positive results guides the work. By the time the research is completed, he or she knows how it should have been started and conducted." [2]

Cram was named an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1947, and a professor in 1955. He served there until his retirement in 1987. He was a popular teacher, having instructed some 8,000 undergraduates in his career and guided the academic output of 200 graduate students. He entertained his classes by strumming his guitar and singing folk songs.[2] He showed a self-deprecating style, saying at one time:


Cram expanded upon chemistry into three dimensions, creating an array of differently shaped molecules that could interact selectively with other chemicals because of their complementary three-dimensional structures. Cram's work represented a large step toward the synthesis of functional laboratory-made mimics of enzymes and other natural molecules whose special chemical behavior is due to their characteristic structure. He also did work in stereochemistry and Cram's rule of asymmetric induction is named after him.

Crystal structure of a nitrobenzene bound within a hemicarcerand reported by Cram and coworkers[8]


[3] From 1942-1945, Cram worked in chemical research at


[6], serving as the adviser on his dissertation on "Syntheses and reactions of 2-(ketoalkyl)-3-hydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinones"Louis Fieser with [2] In 1947, Cram graduated from

[5] with Norman O. Cromwell serving as his thesis adviser. He subject was "Amino ketones, mechanism studies of the reactions of heterocyclic secondary amines with -bromo-, -unsaturated ketones."[2]

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