Lecture looks at hydrogen as alternative fuel

At a time when U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern fossil fuels has assumed ominous new overtones, a Sept. 25 lecture at Bates College holds out hope for a virtually unlimited new source of energy. In the second of two lectures that day inaugurating an “eminent scientist” series at Bates, National Medal of Science recipient Harry Gray will discuss recent progress on attempts to split water cost-effectively into hydrogen and oxygen gases, which would make hydrogen gas a feasible substitute for fossil fuels as our major energy source.

Gray is Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and founding director of the Beckman Institute of Technology at the California Institute of Technology. His appearance at Bates includes lectures at 4 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, that constitute the inaugural George S. Hammond ’43 H’73 Eminent Scientist Lecture event.

The public is welcome to the lectures, and admission is free.

Gray’s 4 p.m. talk, held in Room 119 of Dana Science, is titled The Currents of Life: Electron Flow Through Water and Proteins. His 8 p.m. talk, held in the Edmund S. Muskie Archives on Campus Avenue, is titled 21st-Century Chemistry: Fuel From Sunlight and Water.

Widely published, Gray’s interdisciplinary research addresses a wide range of fundamental problems in inorganic chemistry, biochemistry and biophysics. Electron-transfer chemistry is a unifying theme for much of this research. Gray received his bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky College and his doctorate from Northwestern University. He was later named a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Copenhagen.

A Caltech professor since 1965, Gray was named the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry in 1981, served as chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from 1978 to 1984 and became head of the Beckman Institute in 1986. He received the National Medal of Science in 1986 and was named co-winner of the 2000 Harvey Prize, presented annually by the Israel Institute of Technology to a scholar or scientist who has worked toward promoting goodwill between Israel and the nations of the world.

Also in 2000, Gray was named a foreign member of Great Britain’s Royal Society, an honor bestowed each year on a small number of the world’s outstanding scientists; and became a member of the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States devoted to the advancement of scientific and scholarly inquiry.

The annual George S. Hammond ’43 H’73 Eminent Scientist Lecture is given in honor of the internationally recognized scientist George S. Hammond by his students and associates from Iowa State College (ISC), under the leadership of Dr. Jay K. Kochi, a physical organic chemist at the University of Houston and one of Hammond’s first ISC students. The Hammond series will support lectures by important and eminent scientists chosen by a committee of faculty and students in the Bates College chemistry department. Lecturers can be chemists, biologists or physicists whose topic relates to an area of chemistry.

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