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Fraser Stoddart

Sir Fraser Stoddart at Northwestern University October 2016, by Jim Prisching
James Fraser Stoddart

(1942-05-24) 24 May 1942 (age 81)
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
United States
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh (BSc, PhD)
Known forMechanical Bond in Chemistry
Molecular shuttles and Molecular switches
Artificial Molecular Machines
Template-Directed Synthesis
Chemical Topology
Metal-Organic Frameworks
Cyclodextrin Chemistry
Norma Agnes Scholan
(m. 1968; died 2004)
Fiona Jane McCubbin
Alison Margaret Stoddart
Scientific career
FieldsPhysical Organic Chemistry
Lock-and-Key Chemistry
Unnatural Product Synthesis
Molecular Nanotechnology
InstitutionsQueen's University (1967–1969)
University of Sheffield (1970–1990)
ICI Corporate Laboratory, Runcorn (1978–1981)
University of Birmingham (1990–1997)
University of California, Los Angeles (1997–2007)
Northwestern University (2008– )
Tianjin University (2014– )
University of New South Wales (2018– )
Doctoral advisor
Other academic advisors
  • J K N (Ken) Jones FRS
  • W David Ollis FRS
Notable studentsDavid Leigh Narayanaswamy Jayaraman[4]
Douglas Philp
President Barack Obama greets the 2016 American Nobel Prize winners in the Oval Office, 30 November 2016, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart (Right), Laureate of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry from Northwestern University,
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 a catenane with a cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene) macrocycle reported by Stoddart and coworkers in the Chem. Commun., 1991, 634–639.
Crystal structure of molecular Borromean rings reported by Stoddart and coworkers Science 2004, 304, 1308–1312.

Sir James Fraser Stoddart FRS FRSE HonFRSC[1] (born 24 May 1942[5]) is a British-American chemist who is Board of Trustees Professor of Chemistry and head of the Stoddart Mechanostereochemistry Group in the Department of Chemistry at Northwestern University in the United States.[8] 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 utilising molecular recognition and molecular self-assembly processes. He has demonstrated that these topologies can be employed as molecular switches.[9] His group has even applied these structures in the fabrication of nanoelectronic devices and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS).[10] His efforts have been recognized by numerous awards, including the 2007 King Faisal International Prize in Science.[11][12][13] He shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Ben Feringa and Jean-Pierre Sauvage in 2016 for the design and synthesis of molecular machines.[2][14][15][16][17]

Education and early life

Fraser Stoddart was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 24 May 1942, the only child of Tom and Jean Stoddart.[18][19] He was brought up as a tenant farmer on Edgelaw Farm, a small community consisting of three families. Sir Fraser professes to a passion for jigsaw puzzles and construction toys in his formative years, which he believes was the basis for his interest in molecular construction.[20] Fraser Stoddart was a shy and serene boy and young man.[18][19]

He received early schooling at the local village school in Carrington, Midlothian, before going on to Melville College in Edinburgh.[21][22] He started at the University of Edinburgh in 1960 where he initially studied chemistry, physics and mathematics[18] He was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in 1964 followed by a Doctor of Philosophy in 1966[23] for research on natural gums in Acacias supervised by Sir Edmund Langley Hirst and D M W Anderson[3] from the University of Edinburgh.[24]


In 1967, he went to Queen's University (Canada) as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow. In 1970 he moved to the University of Sheffield as an Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) Research Fellow, before joining the academic staff as a lecturer in chemistry. In early 1978 he was a Science Research Council Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Later in 1978, he was transferred to the ICI Corporate Laboratory in Runcorn, England where he first started investigating the mechanically interlocked molecules that would eventually become molecular machines.[25] At the end of the three year secondment he returned to Sheffield[26] where he was promoted to a Readership in 1982.

He was awarded a Doctor of Science degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1980[27] for his research into stereochemistry beyond the molecule. In 1990, he moved to the Chair of Organic Chemistry at the University of Birmingham and was Head of the School of Chemistry there (1993–97) before moving to UCLA as the Saul Winstein Professor of Chemistry in 1997, succeeding Nobel laureate Donald Cram.[13][28]

In July 2002, he became the Acting Co-Director of the California NanoSystems Institute (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.[28]

In 2008, he established the Mechanostereochemistry Group and was named Board of Trustees Professor in Chemistry at Northwestern University.[29] He went on to be the Director of the Center for the Chemistry of Integrated Systems (CCIS) at Northwestern University in 2010.[30]

In 2017, Stoddart was appointed a part-time position at the University of New South Wales to establish his New Chemistry initiative at the UNSW School of Chemistry.[31]

In 2019, Stoddart introduced a skincare brand called Noble Panacea.[32]

During 35 years, nearly 300 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers have been trained in his laboratories.[21]


Stoddart is one of only a few chemists of the past quarter century to pioneer a new field in organic chemistry. By establishing a new field where the main feature is mechanical bonds he has paved the way for molecular recognition, self-assembly processes for template-directed mechanically interlocked syntheses, molecular switches, and motor-molecules. These advances have formed the basis of the fields of nanoelectronic devices, nanoelectromechanical systems, and molecular machines.[33][2]

One of his major contributions to the development of mechanically-interlocked molecular architectures such as rotaxanes and catenanes has been the establishment of efficient synthetic protocols based on the binding of cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene) with electron-rich aromatic guests.[34] His group reported the synthesis of an advanced mechanically interlocked molecular architecture called molecular Borromean rings through the use of dynamic covalent chemistry.[35] The efficient procedures developed to synthesize these molecular architectures has been applied to the construction of molecular switches that operate based on the movement of the various components with respect to one another. These interlocked molecules have potential uses as molecular sensors, actuators, amplifiers, and molecular switches, and can be controlled chemically, electrically, and optically.[36]

His work bridges the gap between chemistry and the scientific and engineering challenges of nanoelectromechanical systems."[37]

Stoddart has pioneered the use of mechanically interlocked molecular architectures to create nanomechanical systems.[38][39] 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.[40]

The credit for making molecular machines attractive to chemists goes to Fraser Stoddart, ... He had the vision to realise that these architectures gave you the possibility of large amplitude-controlled motions, and that that could be the basis of molecular machines. David Leigh[38]

Presentation style

External videos
video icon "Fraser Stoddart: Mingling Art with Science", STE[+a]M Connect
video icon "The Beauty and Promise of Molecular Nanotechnology", PSW Science
video icon "Fraser Stoddart on Molecular Assembly", 1990, University of Birmingham

Stoddart's papers and other material are instantly recognizable due to 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. 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). The distinctive coloring has led to coining the term 'little blue box' for cyclophane, an important π-acceptor used to synthesize mechanically bonded structures.[25] Stoddart maintains this standardized color scheme across all of his publications and presentations, and his style has been adopted by other researchers reporting mechanically interlocked molecules based on his syntheses.[41][42]

ISI ratings

As of 2022 Stoddart has an h-index of 175.[43] As of 2016 he had published more than 1000 publications and holds at least ten patents.[44] For the period from January 1997 to 31 August 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.

The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) predicted that Fraser Stoddart was a likely laureate of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with George M. Whitesides and Seiji Shinkai for their contributions to molecular self-assembly.[45] However, the Prize eventually went to Peter Agre and Roderick MacKinnon.[46]

Awards and honors

Stoddart was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the New Year's Honours December 2006, by Queen Elizabeth II for Services to Chemistry and Molecular Nanotechnology.[26][47]

In 2007, he received the Albert Einstein World Award of Science in recognition for his outstanding and pioneering work in molecular recognition and self-assembly, and the introduction of quick and efficient template-directed synthetic routes to mechanically interlocked molecular compounds, which have changed the way chemists think about molecular switches and machines.[48]

In 2016, he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Ben Feringa and Jean-Pierre Sauvage for the design and synthesis of molecular machines.[2][11]


Other awards and honours

Personal life

Stoddart is an American and British citizen. Stoddart was married to Norma Agnes Scholan from 1968[5][6][7] until her death in 2004 from cancer.[25] Norma Stoddart obtained a PhD in biochemistry and helped support the research efforts of her husband at the Universities of Sheffield, Birmingham, and California, Los Angeles.[69] Stoddart has two daughters; Fiona and Alison.


The Fraser and Norma Stoddart Prize for PhD students has been established at their alma mater, the University of Edinburgh.[6] It was given for the first time in 2013.[70]


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