|Graduation photo, W.G. Brown (Photograph Collection, ASM 114)|
Convocation date: September 29, 1959
Special Convocation: Golden Jubilee Convocation
Discipline / contribution: organic chemistry ; radiation chemistry
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor:Degree received: Doctor of Laws
I present to you Weldon Grant Brown, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Chicago, a native of Saskatoon, and a distinguished alumnus of Saskatchewan.
As a student at this University Dr. Brown showed the versatility which was later to characterize his scientific career. A brilliant scholar and an adapt experimenter, he received his High Honours degree at nineteen, and his Masters degree, which led to the publication of several scientific papers, at twenty. Concurrent part-time work enabled him to stay in College. He was a member of the Husky Football team for two years, Editor of the Sheaf for one year, and during the summer vacations completed a course in aviation in the R.C.A.F. Flying Training School at Camp Borden where he won the coveted “Sword of Honour” at graduation.
Then followed rapid studies for the Doctorate at the University of California, post-doctorate research in Physics and Physical Chemistry at the Universities of Chicago, Berlin and Frankfurt, as the holder of the highest U.S. Research Fellowships of that day, a period as Research Associate with Nobel Laureate Urey at Columbia and then appointment as Assistant Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Chicago.
In research Dr. Brown’s interests have been extremely broad and he has made eminent contributions in many fields. Among these have been the absorption spectra of the halogens, the use of hydrogen-deuterium exchange reactions of aromatic compounds to demonstrate the steno nature of the ortho-effect, thus advancing the modern understanding of the mechanism of electrophilic substitution reactions, and the recognition of the phenomenon of hyperconjugation, a paper now regarded as a classic in the literature of organic chemistry.
Dr. Brown was the first to establish the usefulness of paper chromatography for microseparation of organic compounds and thus initiated the enormous modern development of this technique. Lately he was responsible for the introduction of complex metal hydrides as reducing agents for organic compounds. A well known colleague has said: “If Brown had done nothing but this, he would deserve a place of honour among chemists.”
During World War II, Dr. Brown undertook many special assignments under the U.S. National Defence Committee, among them U.S.-Canada liaison in chemical warfare research. He was awarded a Presidential Certificate of Merit. As consultant to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commissions Dr. Brown has organized groups in organic tracer research with radioisotopes. At present his main interest is in the new field of Radiation Chemistry.
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of the Senate of the University, I ask that you confer on Dr. Brown the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Degree presented by: T. Thorvaldson, professor of Chemistry
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