Robert G. Bergman
Professor of Chemistry, UC Berkeley; CSD Senior Faculty Scientist; Catalysis and Chemical Transformations Program
Professor of Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley
Department of Chemistry
691 Tan Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-1460
The Catalysis Program
Robert G. Bergman was born in Chicago, Illinois, on May 23, 1942. After completing his undergraduate studies in chemistry at Carleton College in 1963, he received his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in 1966 under the direction of Jerome A. Berson. While at Wisconsin he was awarded a National Institutes of Health Predoctoral Fellowship. Bergman spent 1966-67 as a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Fellow in Ronald Breslow's laboratories at Columbia, and following that went to the California Institute of Technology as a Noyes Research Instructor. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1969, associate professor in 1971, and full professor in 1973. He accepted an appointment as Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, in July 1977, and moved his research group to Berkeley about a year later.
At Caltech Bergman received an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship (1969), a Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholar Award (1970) and a Student Government Award for Excellence in Teaching (1978). In 1984 he returned to Caltech for a six-month stay as a Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar. Also in 1984 Bergman was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He won a Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from Carleton College in 1985, and was chosen to receive the John Bailar medal from the University of Illinois the same year. He is the second recipient of the American Chemical Society Award in Organometallic Chemistry (1986), and received an Arthur C. Cope Scholar award from the ACS in Fall, 1987. In 1990 he received the Edgar Fahs Smith Award (ACS Philadelphia Section) and the Ira Remsen Award (ACS Baltimore Section). In 1991 he was granted a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health. He received the E.O. Lawrence Award in Chemistry from the U.S. Department of Energy in 1994, and was awarded an honorary Ph. D. degree from Carleton College in 1995. He received the American Chemical Society Arthur C. Cope Award in 1996.
Bergman has served as a member of the National Institutes of Health Bioanalytical and Metallobiochemistry Study Section (1976-80). At Berkeley he has served as Vice-chair of the Department of Chemistry (1985-87) and twice as Assistant Dean of the College of Chemistry (1987-91 and 1996- present). He has served on Chemistry Department Review Committees for the California Institute of Technology, the University of Nevada at Reno, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Harvard University.
Bergman was trained as an organic chemist and spent the first part of his independent career at Caltech investigating the mechanisms of organic reactions. He also developed methods for the generation and study of unusually reactive molecules, such as 1,3-diradicals and vinyl cations. In 1972 he discovered the thermal cyclization of cis-1,5-hexadiyne-3-enes to l,4-dehydrobenzene diradicals, a transformation that has recently been identified as a crucial DNA-cleaving reaction in several antibiotics that bind to nucleic acids. In the mid-1970's his research broadened to include organometallic chemistry. In 1977 he accepted his current position as Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and moved with his research group to Berkeley in 1978. Since that time he has made contributions to the synthesis and chemistry of several types of organotransition metal complexes and to improving our understanding of the mechanisms of their reactions. In this area he has focused on migratory insertion and oxidative addition reactions, the chemistry of new dinuclear complexes, the investigation of organometallic compounds having metal-oxygen and -nitrogen bonds, and the reactions of organotransition metal enolates. He is probably best known for his discovery of the first soluble organometallic complexes that undergo intermolecular insertion of transition metals into the carbon-hydrogen bonds of alkanes, and the use of liquefied noble gas solvents in the study of these reactions.
Robert G. Bergman's Publications