English mathematician and chemist who with Austrian-born physicist Walter Kohn shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in1998 for computational methodology in quantum chemistry. His share of the prize was a result of his development of computer-based methods for studying quantum chemistry.
The theoretical study of molecules using the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics was not possible until the development of the computer because of the complexity of the calculations involved. The next obstacle became the availability of computer programs that could accurately and reliably apply quantum theory to explain and predict the properties of molecules and how they would react. Pople set out to address this problem and he became one of the leading developers of computational methods in this field. The culmination of his work was the computer program GAUSSIAN, which he made publicly available in 1970. This program allowed the accurate prediction of chemical behaviour and provided a theoretical complement to practical experimentation. After further development, the program has become a basic tool in the study of quantum chemistry and is in universal use in academic and commercial institutions throughout the world. The models provided by the program have a wide range of applications, such as predicting the spread of pollutants in the environment, to the development of new drugs.
Pople was born in Burnam-on-Sea, Somerset, England. He received his PhD in mathematics from the University of Cambridge in 1951. He became a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1951 and was a lecturer in mathematics there until 1958, when he moved on to become the head of the Basic Physics Division of the National Physical Laboratory in Middlesex, England. He was appointed professor of chemical physics at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, USA, in 1964 and became professor of chemistry at Northwestern University, Illinois, in 1986.