Fraser Stoddart

Fraser Stoddart bigraphy, stories - Scottish chemist

Fraser Stoddart : biography

24 May 1942 –

Crystal structure of a [[rotaxane with a cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene) macrocycle reported by Stoddart and coworkers in the Eur. J. Org. Chem. 1998, 2565–2571.]]

Crystal structure of [[molecular Borromean rings reported by Stoddart and coworkers Science 2004, 304, 1308–1312.]]

Sir James Fraser Stoddart (born 24 May 1942) is a Scottish chemist currently () at the Department of Chemistry at Northwestern University. He works in the area of supramolecular chemistry and nanotechnology. Stoddart has developed highly efficient syntheses of mechanically-interlocked molecular architectures such as molecular Borromean rings, catenanes and rotaxanes utilizing molecular recognition and molecular self-assembly processes. He has demonstrated that these topologies can be employed as molecular switches and as motor-molecules. His group has even applied these structures in the fabrication of nanoelectronic devices and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS). His efforts have been recognized by numerous awards including the 2007 King Faisal International Prize in Science.


Fraser Stoddart was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and received his B.Sc. (1964) and Ph.D. (1966) degrees from Edinburgh University. In 1967, he went to Queen’s University (Canada) as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, and then, in 1970, to Sheffield University as an Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) Research Fellow, before joining the academic staff as a Lecturer in Chemistry. He was a Science Research Council Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1978. After spending a sabbatical (1978–81) at the ICI Corporate Laboratory in Runcorn, he returned to Sheffield where he was promoted to a Readership in 1982.

He was awarded a DSc degree by Edinburgh in 1980 for his research into stereochemistry beyond the molecule and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1994. In 1990, he moved to the Chair of Organic Chemistry at Birmingham University and was Head of the School of Chemistry there (1993–97) before moving to UCLA as the Saul Winstein Professor of Chemistry in 1997.

In July 2002, he became the Acting Co-Director of the (CNSI). In May 2003, he became the Fred Kavli Chair of NanoSystems Sciences and served from then through August 2007 as the Director of the CNSI. He was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the New Year’s Honours December 2006, by Queen Elizabeth II.

Research interests

One of his major contributions to the development of mechanically-interlocked molecular architectures has been the establishment of efficient synthesis of these molecules based on the binding of cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene), such as rotaxanes and catenanes. Using dynamic covalent chemistry his group reported the synthesis of the most advanced mechanically-interlocked molecular architecture called molecular Borromean rings. The efficient procedures developed to synthesize these molecular architectures has been applied to the construction of molecular machines that operate based on the movement of the various components with respect to one another.Megan M. Boyle, Ronald A. Smaldone, Adam C. Whalley, Michael W. Ambrogio, Youssry Y. Botros and J. Fraser Stoddart, These molecular machines have potential uses as molecular sensors, actuators, amplifiers, and molecular switches and can be controlled chemically, electrically, and optically.

Stoddart has pioneered the use of mechanically-interlocked molecular architectures to create nanomechanical systems. He has demonstrated that such devices can be fabricated using a combination of the bottom-up approach of molecular self-assembly and a top-down approach of lithography and microfabrication.


Presentation style

Stoddart’s papers and other material are instantly recognizable because of a distinctive "cartoon"-style of representation he has developed since the late 1980s. A solid circle is often placed in the middle of the aromatic rings of the molecular structures he has reported, and different colors to highlight different parts of the molecules. Indeed, he was one of the first researchers to make extensive use of color in chemistry publications. The different colors usually correspond to the different parts of a cartoon representation of the molecule, but are also used to represent specific molecular properties (blue, for example, is used to represent electron-poor recognition units while red is used to represent the corresponding electron-rich recognition units). Stoddart maintains this standardized color scheme across all of his publications and presentations, and his style has been adopted by other researchers reporting molecular machines based on his syntheses.

ISI ratings

Of his more than 900 publications, six have been cited 500 or more times, 16 over 300, 82 over 100, and 203 over 50. He has an h-index of 92. For the period from January 1997 to August 31, 2007, he was ranked by the Institute for Scientific Information as the third most cited chemist with a total of 14,038 citations from 304 papers at a frequency of 46.2 citations per paper. During 35 years, over 260 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers have been trained in his laboratories, and more than 60 have subsequently embarked upon independent academic careers. The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) also that Fraser Stoddart was a likely winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with George M. Whitesides and Seiji Shinkai for their contributions to molecular self-assembly. However, the Prize eventually went to Robert Grubbs, Richard Schrock and Yves Chauvin.