Edgar Bright Wilson

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Edgar Bright Wilson
Born(1908-12-18)December 18, 1908
Gallatin, Tennessee, United States
DiedJune 12, 1992(1992-06-12) (aged 83)
Spouse(s)Emily Buckingham and Therese Bremer
Children4 sons and 2 daughters including Kenneth Wilson, Nobel Laureate in Physics
AwardsACS Award in Pure Chemistry (1937)
Peter Debye Award (1962)
National Medal of Science (1975)
Welch Award in Chemistry (1978)
Earle K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy (1978)
Willard Gibbs Award (1979)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1982)
Scientific career
InstitutionsHarvard University
Doctoral advisorLinus Pauling
Doctoral studentsDudley Herschbach
Robert Karplus
Ira N. Levine
William H Miller

Edgar Bright Wilson Jr. (December 18, 1908 – June 12, 1992) was an American chemist.[1]

Wilson was a prominent and accomplished chemist and teacher, recipient of the National Medal of Science in 1975, Guggenheim Fellowships in 1949 and 1970, the Elliott Cresson Medal in 1982, and a number of honorary doctorates. He was also the Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus at Harvard University. One of his sons, Kenneth G. Wilson, was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1982. E. B. Wilson was a student and protégé of Nobel laureate Linus Pauling and was a coauthor with Pauling of Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, a graduate level textbook in Quantum Mechanics. Wilson was also the thesis advisor of Nobel laureate Dudley Herschbach. Wilson was elected to the first class of the Harvard Society of Fellows.

Wilson made major contributions to the field of molecular spectroscopy. He developed the first rigorous quantum mechanical Hamiltonian in internal coordinates for a polyatomic molecule. He developed the theory of how rotational spectra are influenced by centrifugal distortion during rotation. He pioneered the use of group theory for the analysis and simplification normal mode analysis, particularly for high symmetry molecules, such as benzene. In 1955, with J.C. Decius and Paul C. Cross, Wilson published Molecular Vibrations, still the primary reference text for the theoretical analysis of vibrational spectroscopy, including the GF matrix method that Wilson had developed. Following the Second World War, Wilson was a pioneer in the application of microwave spectroscopy to the determination of molecular structure. Wilson wrote an influential introductory text Introduction to Scientific Research that provided an introduction of all the steps of scientific research, from defining a problem through the archival of data after publication.

Starting in 1997, the American Chemical Society has annually awarded the E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy, named in honor of Wilson.

Personal life[edit]

Wilson was married to Emily Buckingham from 1935 until she died in 1954. He remarried to Therese Bremer in 1955. Bremer is a distinguished photochemist. Wilson had a total of 4 sons and 2 daughters, one of whom is Kenneth Wilson, a Nobel Laureate in Physics.[2]


  1. ^ Klemperer, William (May 1993). "Obituary: E. Bright Wilson". Physics Today. 46 (5): 80. Bibcode:1993PhT....46e..80K. doi:10.1063/1.2808916. Archived from the original on 2013-10-05.
  2. ^ "Obituary: Professor E. Bright Wilson". The Independent. 1992-07-22. Retrieved 2020-10-05.

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