Alexander Pines elected to Foreign Membership in Royal Society (LBNL Research News)

May 13, 2002

The United Kingdom's Royal Society, the oldest continuously existing scientific academy in the world, today announced that Alexander Pines has been elected a Foreign Member for 2002. New Fellows and Foreign Members will be formally inducted and honored during a grand ceremony at the Royal Society in London on July 12.

Each year the Royal Society names 42 Fellows, who are citizens and residents of British Commonwealth countries and the Irish Republic, and up to six foreign members from other countries. Fellows and members are among the most eminent scientists of the day. 

Pines is a Faculty Senior Scientist in the Materials Sciences Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and is Glenn T. Seaborg Professor of Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. Announcing Pines's membership, the Royal Society recognized Pines for his pioneering contributions to the development of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

"In naming Alex to foreign membership, the Royal Society recognizes one of Berkeley Lab's most creative scientists," said Berkeley Lab Director Charles Shank. "Alex has repeatedly extended the scope of the powerful tools of NMR, increasing basic scientific knowledge and benefiting health and industry as well. Berkeley Lab is proud to claim this world leader in the field."

"I was surprised and delighted at the announcement," said Pines. In a reference to his graduate students and postgraduate fellows, who have dubbed themselves the "Pinenuts," Pines added that he is "particularly proud that it represents a tribute to the exciting research atmosphere and accomplishments of my beloved Pinenuts throughout my years at Berkeley."

Born in 1945, Pines grew up in Rhodesia, with a continuing passion for mathematics, chess, and music as well as science. As an undergraduate he studied mathematics and chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He joined Berkeley Lab and the faculty of UC Berkeley shortly after earning his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1972. A U.S. citizen since 1981, he is married to Ditsa Pines and is the father of five children.

Pines's theoretical and experimental work, first with the renowned J.S. Waugh at MIT and then over thirty years of contributions at Berkeley, helped lay the foundations of much of the conceptual framework and practice of modern multidimensional NMR spectroscopy, in particular the era of high-resolution, solid-state NMR in chemistry.

Pines and his colleagues are responsible for a score of innovations, including such concepts and techniques as cross polarization, multiple-quantum spectroscopy, zero-field NMR, and double rotation and dynamic-angle spinning. His recent developments include the "lighting up" of NMR spectroscopy and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) by using laser-polarized xenon, and a unique approach to "ex-situ" high-resolution NMR.

A wide range of materials, once considered inaccessible, are now open to investigations of composition, molecular structure, and dynamics using NMR, because of the contributions of Pines and his coworkers. Systems studied by his techniques include inorganic catalysts, semiconductors, nanomaterials, organic polymers, porous materials, minerals, and membrane proteins. His research has had impact in fields from chemistry and physics to materials science and biomedicine.

Numerous publications, patents, and industrial technologies have resulted from research in the Pines laboratory, which has long been supported by the Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

A celebrated teacher, Pines is recipient of the University of California's Distinguished Teaching Award and the American Chemical Society's Nobel Signature Award for Graduate Education, among other teaching awards. He is famous for his freshman chemistry class at UC Berkeley and equally well known for his graduate and postgraduate Pinenuts, many of whom have gone on to fill leading positions in industry, academia, and public service worldwide.

Pines's numerous awards include the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, the American Chemical Society's Langmuir Award and Baekland Award in Pure Chemistry, the Bourke and Centenary Medals of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Department of Energy's Ernest O. Lawrence Award. He is doctor honoris causa at the University of Paris "Pierre et Marie Curie," and at the University of Rome "La Sapienza." He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is past president of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance.

The Royal Society, also known as the Royal Society of London, was founded in 1660 by a small group, astronomer Christopher Wren and chemist Robert Boyle among them, who were interested in the "Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimentall [sic] Learning." Within a year they had secured the charter of King Charles II. The first Curator of Experiments was polymath Robert Hooke, remembered for his feud with Isaac Newton, also a member and president of the Society.

Since its founding, all fellows and members of the Society have been elected by their peers; they include the best-known names in science, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, James Watson and Francis Crick, and Stephen Hawking, to name a few.