Herbert A. Hauptman Biography

Herbert Aaron Hauptman was an American mathematician who won the 1985 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Check out this biography to know about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

Herbert A. Hauptman
Quick Facts

Birthday: February 14, 1917

Nationality: American

Famous: Mathematicians American Men

Died At Age: 94

Sun Sign: Aquarius

Also Known As: Herbert Aaron Hauptman

Born in: New York City

Famous as: Mathematician


Spouse/Ex-: Edith Citrynell

father: Israel Hauptman

mother: Leah Rosenfeld

children: Barbara (born 1947), Carol (born 1950).

Died on: October 23, 2011

place of death: Buffalo, New York

City: New York City

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

awards: Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1985) (jointly with Jerome Karle)
Dirac Medal (1991)

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Herbert Aaron Hauptman was an American mathematician who was one of the joint recipients of the 1985 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was a pioneer in utilizing mathematical equations thereby paving way for novel ways in research for the determination of the structure of molecules of crystallized materials. Interested in mathematics and science as a child, he later took up a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the City College of New York and an M. A. degree in mathematics from Columbia University. He completed his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Maryland and subsequently began working with chemist Jerome Karle on X-Ray crystallography. His knowledge in mathematics and Jerome Karle’s expertise in physical chemistry enabled them to identify the issues associated with X-Ray crystallography, introduce probabilistic methods and deduce mathematical equations while working on understanding molecular structure. Hauptman and Jerome Karle won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1985 for the ‘development of direct methods for the determination of crystal structures’. Hauptman later continued his research as part of the crystallographic group of the Medical Foundation of Buffalo where he took up role as research director and President. He also taught at the Department of Computer Science and Biophysical Sciences in the University of Buffalo. Over his career, he authored over 170 publications in the form of journals, papers, articles, books and chapters.

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Herbert A. Hauptman
Childhood & Early Life:
  • Herbert Aaron Hauptman was born on 14 February 1917, at New York City, USA. He was the oldest child of Jewish couple Leah (Rosenfeld) and Israel Hauptman.
  • He completed his school education from Townsend Harris High School and grew interested in mathematics and science. He later pursued his studies from City College of New York and graduated in 1937 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics.
  • He completed his M. A. degree in Mathematics from Columbia University in 1939. After the World War II, he went on to pursue Ph.D. at the University of Maryland at College Park. He subsequently began working in association with physical chemist, Jerome Karle, at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C. Herbert A. Hauptman completed his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Maryland in 1955.
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  • In 1947, after World War II, along with pursuing advanced studies, Herbert A. Hauptman began working in collaboration with Jerome Karle at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
  • Together, they focused on X-ray crystallography, to derive a 3D structure of a molecule by studying the pattern of scattering of a beam of X-Ray through a crystal form of the molecule. The method of X- ray crystallography had several limitations as scientists could not do more than predict the structure of the molecule which had to be confirmed by further investigation.
  • Along with Jerome Karle, Hauptman utilized probability theory to understand the light patterns on the X- Ray film, computed the angles at which X-ray beams were diverted as they went past the electrons surrounding the atom nucleus. These observations led to the development of equations that enabled to accurately determine the position of atoms.
  • These ideas were published in the 1953 monograph ‘Solution of the Phase Problem I. The Centrosymmetric Crystal’. The monograph included information regarding structure invariants and seminvariants and special linear combinations of the phases. Information regarding non-centrosymmetric space groups was added a few years later.
  • These ideas were beneficial for researchers working with antibiotics, hormones and vitamins as with this method, previously inaccessible structures could be studied.
  • He was keen to pursue his career in naval research rather than laser guided missiles and thus in 1970 joined the crystallographic group of the Medical Foundation of Buffalo (renamed the Hauptman-Woodward institute since 1994). The private foundation specialized in endocrine research.
  • In 1972, he became research director of the Medical Foundation of Buffalo and in 1988 took on the role of President and maintained the role until his death. He also worked as Research Professor in the Department of Biophysical Sciences and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University at Buffalo.
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  • He continued his study on issues in crystallography and towards the 1980s shifted his attention to the study of larger molecules.
  • He was known to have written more than 170 publications in the form of papers, books, journals and articles.
Major Works
  • Herbert A. Hauptman was a mathematician who worked on revolutionary methods to identify molecular structure utilizing X-ray crystallography. His works had a positive impact on subsequent research in modern chemistry as well as the pharmaceutical industry.
Awards and Achievements:
  • He was awarded the Belden Prize in Mathematics by the City College of New York in 1935.
  • In 1984 he jointly received the Patterson Award by American Crystallography Association in Lexington.
  • Herbert A. Hauptman and Jerom Karle were jointly awarded the 1985 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
  • He was inducted into the Townsend Harris Hall of fame in 1989.
  • In 1991, he was awarded the Dirac Medal for the Advancement of Theoretical Physics by the University of New South Wales, Australia.
  • He was member of prestigious professional societies like Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Philosophical Society of Washington and Association of Independent Research Institutes.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Herbert A. Hauptman married Edith Citrynell in 1940 and the couple had two daughters; Barbara (born in 1947) and Carol (born in 1950).
  • He was among the 22 Nobel laureates to sign the 2003 Humanist Manifesto by the American Humanist Association.
  • He died on 23 October 2011 at Buffalo, New York, after suffering a stroke, at the age of 94.

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Article Title
- Herbert A. Hauptman Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- October 17, 2017

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