Malcom Dole Distinguished Summer Lectures in Physical Chemistry

The Malcolm Dole Lectures in Physical Chemistry were established by the Department of Chemistry in appreciation for Professor Dole’s lifetime contributions to physical chemistry. In the course of a distinguished Northwestern career of nearly 40 years, including 4 years as Chair of the Materials Research Center, he became internationally renowned for contributions to several major areas of chemistry including electrolyte solutions, isotope effects, and polymers. In 1969, he moved to Baylor University to become Welch Professor of Chemistry, and remained there until his retirement in 1982.

Born in Massachusetts in 1903, Malcolm Dole graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. degree in 1924 and a Ph.D. in 1928. After 2 years of postdoctoral study he joined the faculty at Northwestern University in 1930. While a postdoc at the Rockefeller Institute Dole constructed the first thin membrane glass electrode. He subsequently continued research in this area at Northwestern. His monograph “The Glass Electrode” published in 1941, became the authoritative source in this field and has remained so for decades. Prof. Dole studied the isotopic composition of oxygen from various sources in nature. His discovery of an oxygen isotope cycle which made oxygen in air heavier than that in seas or lakes, now known as the “Dole Effect”, was a major factor leading to replacement of oxygen by carbon as the reference standard for atomic weights.

Prof. Dole also conducted research on electrolyte solutions, and his book, Principles of Theoretical and Experimental Electrochemistry, became widely known and used.

During World War II, Prof. Dole participated in several areas of national defense research serving as director of the Dugway Proving Ground operations in offensive chemical warfare and in the operations of the gaseous diffusion plant for uranium fractionation at Oak Ridge.

After the war, Prof. Dole shifted his focus to the burgeoning area of polymers. He designed and built a highly sensitive and precise adiabatic calorimeter for measuring specific heats and enthalpies of polymers. In 1947-48, he discovered that low density polyethylene could be crosslinked by radiation, a phenomenon that has proved of great practical application. During the remainder of his career he continued his study of the fundamental mechanisms of these free radical crosslinking reactions.

In the course of his career, Prof. Dole authored 210 papers, three books (Theoretical and Experimental Electrochemistry, 1935; The Glass Electrode, 1941 and Introduction to Statistical Thermodynamics, 1954). In addition, he edited the two-volume work “The Radiation Chemistry of Macromolecules” in 1972-3 and contributed eight chapters himself.

Prof. Dole’s research was characterized by remarkable imagination, deep insight and a broad knowledge of science.  He was also exceptionally creative and innovative in several unrelated fields. His personal relationships with students and colleagues were marked with the same enthusiasm and attentive interest that characterized his approach to scientific challenges.

Past Dole Lecturers


Emily Carter

Princeton University


Alexander Pines

University of California, Berkeley


Allen J. Bard

University of Texas, Austin


Richard Mathies

University of California, Berkeley


Wolfgang Lubitz

Max Planck Institut Mulheim


Stuart A. Rice

University of Chicago


John C. Tully

Yale University


John B. Fenn

Virginia Commonwealth University


Hans-Joachim Freund

Fritz-Haber-Institüt der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft


Richard J. Saykally  

University of California, Berkeley


Joshua Jortner

Tel-Aviv University


Wilson Ho

University of California, Irvine


Robin Hochstrasser 

University of Pennsylvania


F. Fleming Crim

University of Wisconsin, Madison


Gabor Somorjai

University of California, Berkeley


Harden McConnell

Stanford University


Michael Klein

University of Pennsylvania


Paul Barbara

University of Minnesota