US chemist, who with French chemist Yves Chauvin and US chemist Richard R Schrock shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2005 for his contribution to the development of catalysts for metathesis reactions (the interchange of radicals or groups of atoms in a compound) in organic chemistry.
Grubbs was awarded his share in the Nobel Prize for his work concerning the development of an efficient metal compound catalyst for metathesis reactions. Grubbs followed theoretical work on metathesis reactions by Chauvin in 1971, and the development of the first efficient catalyst for this method by Schrock in 1990, to develop the first metathesis catalyst that was stable in air, a discovery that widened the range of applications for which metathesis could be used. Metathesis allows for organic chemical synthesis to be carried out more efficiently and with less hazardous waste products than was previously used by the chemical industry. The method has become routinely used in the production of pharmaceuticals and plastics.
Grubbs was born in Calvert City, Kentucky. He studied chemistry and gained his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from the University of Florida, Gainsville, in 1963 and 1965 respectively. He earned his PhD from Columbia University, New York, in 1968. He became Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California in 1990, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1989. Grubbs was awarded a fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994.