Herbert A. Hauptman

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Herbert A. Hauptman
Herbert Hauptman - UB 2009.jpg
Hauptman in 2009
Born Herbert Aaron Hauptman
(1917-02-14)February 14, 1917
New York City, New York
Died October 23, 2011(2011-10-23) (aged 94)
Buffalo, New York[1]
Nationality American
Alma mater City College of New York
Columbia University
University of Maryland
Spouse(s) Edith Citrynell (m. 1940; 2 children) (1918-2012)
Awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1985) (jointly with Jerome Karle)
Dirac Medal (1991)
Scientific career
Fields Mathematician
Institutions Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute & University at Buffalo

Herbert Aaron Hauptman (February 14, 1917 – October 23, 2011)[2] was an American mathematician and Nobel laureate.[3] He pioneered and developed a mathematical method that has changed the whole field of chemistry and opened a new era in research in determination of molecular structures of crystallized materials. Today, Hauptman's direct methods, which he continued to improve and refine, are routinely used to solve complicated structures. It was the application of this mathematical method to a wide variety of chemical structures that led the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to name Hauptman and Jerome Karle recipients of the 1985 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.


He was born in to a Jewish family in New York City, the oldest child of a Leah (Rosenfeld) and Israel Hauptman.[4] He was married to Edith Citrynell since November 10, 1940, with two daughters, Barbara (1947) and Carol (1950).

He was interested in science and mathematics from an early age which he pursued at Townsend Harris High School, graduated from the City College of New York (1937) and obtained an M.A. degree in mathematics from Columbia University in 1939.

After the war he started a collaboration with Jerome Karle at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. and at the same time enrolled in the Ph.D. program at the University of Maryland, College Park. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 1955 in physics, which is part of the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.[5] This combination of mathematics and physical chemistry expertise enabled them to tackle head-on the phase problem of X-ray crystallography. His work on this problem was criticized because, at the time, the problem was believed unsolvable.[6] By 1955 he had received his Ph.D. in mathematics, and they had laid the foundations of the direct methods in X-ray crystallography. Their 1953 monograph, "Solution of the Phase Problem I. The Centrosymmetric Crystal", contained the main ideas, the most important of which was the introduction of probabilistic methods through a development of the Sayre equation.

In 1970 he joined the crystallographic group of the Medical Foundation of Buffalo of which he was Research Director in 1972. During the early years of this period he formulated the neighborhood principle and extension concept. These theories were further developed during the following decades.

In 2003, as an atheist[7] and secular humanist, he was one of 22 Nobel laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto.[8]


Hauptman has authored over 170 publications, including journal articles, research papers, chapters and books. In 1970, Hauptman joined the crystallographic group of the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (formerly the Medical Foundation of Buffalo) of which he became Research Director in 1972. Until his death, he served as President of the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute as well as Research Professor in the Department of Biophysical Sciences and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University at Buffalo. Prior to coming to Buffalo, he worked as a mathematician and supervisor in various departments at the Naval Research Laboratory from 1947. He received his B.S. from City College of New York, M.S. from Columbia University and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Awards and titles


  1. ^ Grimes, William (24 October 2011). "Herbert A. Hauptman, Nobel Laureate, Dies at 94". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Giacovazzo, Carmelo (2011). "Herbert Hauptman (1917–2011)". Nature. 479 (7373): 300. Bibcode:2011Natur.479..300G. doi:10.1038/479300a. 
  3. ^ Dr. Herbert Hauptman, Nobel Prize winner, is dead at 94
  4. ^ "Herbert Hauptman= o". Jewish virtual library. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "Herbert a. Hauptman". The Official Web Site of the Nobel Prize. Nobel Media AB. 
  6. ^ "Herbert Hauptman - The Joy of Science". Center for Inquiry. 31 March 2006. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  7. ^ "Outside the field of scientific research, he was known for his outspoken atheism: belief in God, he once declared, is not only incompatible with good science, but is "damaging to the wellbeing of the human race." " The Telegraph. [1]
  8. ^ "Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Archived from the original on October 5, 2012. Retrieved October 2, 2012. 

External links

  • Nobel Prize in Chemistry - Laureates
  • Herbert Hauptman's Autobiography
  • Dr Hauptman's CV
  • Pergament: A PBS portrait of Buffalo's Nobel winner Herbert Hauptman
  • Board of Science Advisors, The Buffalo International Film Festival, Buffalo, NY, United States
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