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Myron L. & Muriel S. Bender Distinguished Lectures in Organic Chemistry

Professor Myron L. Bender’s scientific contributions demonstrated originality and rigor, and established new, fundamental concepts for a wide range of scientific disciplines, including physical organic chemistry, enzymology, catalysis, and molecular recognition. His early work reported the classic oxygen exchange experiment and proved that the mechanism of ester hydrolysis was an addition-elimination. In related studies, he demonstrated nucleophilic catalysis in ester hydrolysis and intramolecular catalysis in water. Our present understanding of intramolecularity, one of the important concepts in organic chemistry, depends on several of his key discoveries.

Bender demonstrated that the techniques and mechanistic ideas of physical organic chemistry were also applicable to the study of enzyme-catalyzed reactions. This approach has contributed immensely to both the structure of biochemical research and the application of enzymology to medicine. The mechanism of action of a number of enzymes can now be stated with the same precision as reactions of simpler substances. In a brilliant series of investigations, Bender and his collaborators placed a two-step mechanism for the serine proteases on the firm footing of reaction kinetics. His use of cyclodextrin for the homogeneous catalysis of organic reactions preceded all of the studies by Lehn, Cram, and others on host-guest chemistry. Also, Bender reported the synthesis of an organic compound which, although remarkably simple, is a sophisticated model of the acylchymotrypsin intermediate.

Myron Bender received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Purdue University. After postdoctoral studies at Harvard and then University of Chicago, he taught briefly at the University of Connecticut, followed by 10 years at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He arrived at Northwestern in 1960, where he remained until his retirement in 1988. Bender published five books and over 230 research papers and was active in the Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society. He was elected a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford University, and, in 1968, a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Bender received an honorary degree from Purdue in 1969 and was the recipient of the Midwest Award of the American Chemical Society in 1972. Both Myron and Muriel Bender died in 1988. This lecture series has been endowed by their family and friends.

Past Bender Lecturers


Ben Davis

University of Oxford


Jeremy Sanders

University of Cambridge


Tom W. Muir

Princeton University


Kendall N. Houk

University of California, Los Angeles


Christopher Walsh

Harvard Medical School


Ben L. Feringa

University of Groningen, The Netherlands


Klaus Müllen

Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research


Erick Carreira

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)


Francois Diederich

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)


Barbara Imperiali

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Andrew Hamilton

Yale University


Dale Boger

Scripps Research Institute


Jean Fréchet

University of California, Berkeley


Ronald Breslow

Columbia Universitv


Larry E. Overman

University of California, Irvine


Eric N. Jacobsen

Harvard University


Jan W. Verhoeven

The University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Richard Lerner

Scripps Research Institute


Marye Anne Fox and James K. Whitesell     

University of Texas


Peter B. Dervan

California Institute of Technology


JoAnne Stubbe



Martin E. Newcomb

Texas A & M University


Julius Rebek, Jr.



Frederick M. Menger

Emory University

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