George M Whitesides: Bio, Scientific contributor, Awards & Quotes

“Chemistry is the scientific discipline that deals with the perceptible world. Looking everywhere and seeing is chemistry in operation.”

George M Whitesides is an American chemist as well as a professor of chemistry at Harvard University. Organometallic chemistry, Nuclear magnetic, Resonance spectroscopy, molecular self-assembly, soft lithography, microfabrication, microfluidics, and nanotechnology are the best work of Whitesides.

George M. Whitesides
George M. Whitesides

Whitesides received the highest Hirsch index rating of all living chemists in 2011.

Quick Facts of George M Whitesides

Full Name

George McClelland Whitesides

Nick Name

George M Whitesides

Birth Date

August 3, 1939


81years old



Birth Place

Louisville, Kentucky, United States

Father’s Name


Mother’s Name





Lung on a chip


George T. Whitesides








Priestley Medal

National Medal of Science for Chemistry

Dan David Prize in the Future Time Dimension

Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology

Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry


No Small Matter: Science on the Nanoscale

Enzymes in Synthetic: Organic Chemistry George M. Whitesides


Harvard University

California Institute of Technology


Professor, Chemist, and Researcher

Marital Status




Net Worth

$421 thousand

Social Media


Early Life and Family

George M Whitesides a scientist was born August 3, 1939, in the beautiful city of Louisville, KY. Being the son of a chemical engineer, he was exposed to science from a young age. A lab technician was Whitesides first job in the company of his father. 

One of Whitesides teachers requested him the note his unique interests as well as his abilities. This teacher recommended that his parents send him to Phillips Academy Andover, known for the elite preparatory school. 

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Though Whitesides had never heard of that school and recalled that he was unknown where New England was, he agreed to go. He ended up remaining in Massachusetts to attend Harvard University as an undergraduate.

Education of George M Whitesides

Whitesides attended secondary school at Phillips Andover, graduating in 1957. George Whitesides considered majoring in English or mathematics at Harvard University but ultimately decided to capitalize on his chemistry talents. 

A native of Kentucky, Whitesides earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1960 and 1964 with his advisor John D. Roberts (a fellow NMS recipient), a doctorate in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology.

George M. Whitesides Educating Others
George M. Whitesides Educating Others

Completing his doctoral work, Whitesides joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty and remained there until 1982, returning to Harvard’s alma mater. He is the Woodford L. & Ann A. Flowers University Professor and a Director of Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology at Harvard University. 

Whitesides currently holds one of the 21 university professorships at Harvard.

Ideologies and Statements

Whitesides said that “academic science should be careful as not walling itself off from society,” and he has been able to stand by this philosophy throughout his career.

His attempt to identify and meet society’s needs through scientific discovery and invention has always been appealing. Not surprisingly, Whiteside’s work spans an impressive range of topics by covering four main areas: materials science, biochemistry, physical organic chemistry, and catalysis. 

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Whitesides’ work involves creating low-cost and user-friendly medical diagnostic tools that can be used in developing countries with low GDP per capita.

One project from his work is “lab-on-a-chip,” a sheet of paper the size of a postage stamp that uses nanotechnology to turn colors when it comes in contact with human bodily fluids. The chip is affordable, durable and easy to read, making it an appealing tool for people working in poor conditions with little training.

Research at MIT

In 1963 Whitesides began his independent career as an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, remaining there till 1982. Whitesides continued his work with NMR spectroscopy and organometallic compounds working with polymers (substance consisting of very large molecules).

 An early influence informing his late work with biological systems was his collaborations with biologists at MIT. He is credited as playing a pivotal role in the development of the Corey-House-Posner-Whitesides reaction.

Research of Whitesides at Harvard

In 1982, Whitesides returned to the Department of Chemistry at Harvard University with his alma mater and took the laboratory with him. From 1982 to 2004, Whitesides worked as a Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry.

Whitesides has worked as Chairman of the Chemistry Department at Harvard University from 1986–89 in Associate Dean of the Faculty of Art and Science from 1989–1992.

Current research

Materials and surface science is particularly his well-known field of work. His surface chemistry work has examined the process of molecules arranging themselves on a surface. This work has become a key for developments in nanoscience, electronics, pharmaceutical science, and medical diagnostics.

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His lab work that focuses on materials science involves the fabrication of nanostructures, microfluidic systems, microelectromechanical systems, and 3-D microstructures.

Career Life of George M. Whitesides

Becoming a pioneer in his legendary career in chemistry microfabrication and nanoscale self-assembly, and now he’s fabbing as a diagnostic lab on a chip. In the meantime, Whitesides is trying to invent a future where anyone can make a medical diagnosis for little cost or without any cost. 

Whiteside’s has co-founded a nonprofit called Diagnostics for all, which aims to provide healthcare in a world where the cost is very key.

George M. Whitesides delivering speech
George M. Whitesides delivering speech

Among his solutions is a low-cost lab on a chip made from paper and carpet tape. 

The paper wicks bodily fluids-urine, which turns color to provide diagnostic information, such as how much glucose or protein is present. 

Whitesides Current research interests include physical and organic chemistry, complexity and simplicity, materials science, biophysics, technology for developing economies, biology tools, and life’s origin. History at Harvard University is noted for its diversity, creativity, and productivity, and for the quality of the students, it produces.

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Whitesides is active in multiple public service roles. Whitesides has worked on advisory committees for the National Science Foundation known as NASA and the Department of Defense. Since 1984, Whitesides also served on the National Research Council in various capacities, including roles in the Committee on Science and Technology known for the Board on Science Technology and Economic Policy, the Committee on Engineering, Science and Public Policy.

Policies and Public Services

In 2007, Whitesides was part of the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy authoring the National Academies report, i.e., “Rising Above the Gathering Storm“. Competitiveness in science and technology was reported addressing the U.S.

 Whitesides worked as the Chairman of the International Review Panel in 2002, evaluating chemical research in the United Kingdom. Their findings were summarized in what is now known as the Whitesides Report. 

Chemical biology and materials science were identified as important areas for new development in the United Kingdom. They argued that chemistry is an important discipline because its concepts and materials are fundamentals, and other disciplines offering opportunities to enhance communication between disciplines.

Awards and achievements

Establishing an author of nearly more than 1200, Whitesides has established scientific articles, which was later listed as an originator on nearly 134 franchises. From 1981 to 1997 and between 2000 to 2010, Whitesides ranked 5th on ISI’s list of the 1000 most cited chemists and ranked 38th on the list twice.

 In 2011, Whitesides was the most influential living chemist who combines some articles published and citations of those articles by others.

Receiving Award for his contribution
Receiving Award for his contribution

Whitesides have co-founded twelve companies with a combined market capitalization. These companies include Nano Terra, Genzyme, GelTex, Theravance, Surface Logi, and WMR Biomedical. Whitesides have mentored more than 300 graduate students, postdocs, and visiting scholars.

 He serves on several scientific journals, including ACS Nano, Angewandte Chemie, Chemistry & Biology, and Small.

In 1998, he received the U.S. National Medal of Science, In 2003, the Kyoto Prize in Materials Science and Engineering and in 2005, the Welch Award in Chemistry.

George M Whitesides Books 

No Small Matter: An overview was offered to Authors Felice C. Frankel and George M. Whitesides of recent scientific advances, which gives us our ever-shrinking microtechnology—for instance, an information processor connected by wires only 1,000 atoms wide.

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According to Whitesides, benefits and the risks of nano and microtechnology from the potential of quantum computers and single-molecule genomic sequencers considering no any matter according to as understandable and clear as possible, the practical and probable realities of nanoscience provides a unique vision of work at the very boundaries of modern science.

Enzymes in Synthetic Organic Chemistry: 

This book, written by Authors Whitesides and Chi-Huey Wong, covers the most recent organic enzymatic synthesis development, focusing on isolated enzymes. Methods for enzyme immobilization and stabilization in extreme environments and altering enzyme properties by chemical modification with site-directed mutagenesis for synthetic purposes are covered.

Personal Life of Whitesides

American chemist and professor of chemistryWhitesides is currently 81 years and running. With his wife, Barbara, Whitesides has two sons named Ben, and George T. Whitesides is CEO of Virgin Galactic, a firm developing commercial space vehicles. Ben Whitesides is the lead singer and the songwriter of The Joggers, a rock band based in Portland, Oregon.

George M. Whitesides
George M. Whitesides

Research and Inventions of George M Whitesides have worked in an unusually broad range of areas, including organometallic chemistry, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, applied enzymology, self-assembly, soft lithography, microfluidics, organic surface science, and nanotechnology.

The Net Worth of George M Whitesides

$412 thousand is the estimated Net Worth of George M Whitesides as of data collected on August 11, 2017. Whitesides own worth over $74,560 and over 4000 units of Theravance Biopharma Inc Stock.

He also makes $337,879 additional money as Independent Director at Theravance Biopharma Inc. He has been paid with the highest compensation of about $5,932,410, writing 13 executives at Theravance Biopharma Inc.

George M Whitesides Quotes

  • Simplicity, for reasons that are a little bit obscure, is almost not pursued, at least in the academic world.
  • Nanoengineering is learning how to make devices as small as 10 to 100 atoms in width. Much of the work is going on in the electronics industry, where there is a great demand to pack more components onto computer chips.
  • Science has the potential to solve all kinds of problems, but it depends on what society wants to accomplish.
  • Chemists have always been in the business of taking atoms and putting them together with other atoms with precisely defined connections.
  • We academics – I am an academic – we love complexity. You can write papers about complexity, and the nice thing about complexity is it’s fundamentally intractable in many ways, so you’re not responsible for outcomes.
  • Part of science is the questioning of authority, absolute freedom of ideology. The Soviets did some very good science, but when science ran into ideology, it had trouble. Science flourishes best in a democracy.
  • Capitalism is a wonderful economic engine, but it assigns little value to long-term projects or societal problems.


1. Who is George M. Whitesides?

George M. Whitesides is a professor of chemistry at Harvard University. 

2. What did George M. Whitesides invent?

George Whitesides created a whole new field of study and technology when he used the fundamental laws of chemistry to let molecules essentially build themselves into structures smaller than anyone had been able to achieve.

3. What contribution did George M. Whitesides made?

Whitesides has made scientific contributions in diverse areas, including nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), microfluidics and nanotechnology. He is particularly well known for his work in materials and surface science.

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