John Pople

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Sir John Pople
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John Anthony Pople

(1925-10-31)31 October 1925
Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, England
Died15 March 2004(2004-03-15) (aged 78)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Known forComputational methods in quantum chemistry
Joy Bowers
(m. 1952;her death 2002)
Scientific career
Thesis Lone Pair Electrons [2]  (1951)
Doctoral advisor John Lennard-Jones [2]
Doctoral students

Sir John Anthony Pople, KBE FRS [1] (31 October 1925 – 15 March 2004) [1] [5] was a British theoretical chemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Walter Kohn in 1998 for his development of computational methods in quantum chemistry. [6] [7] [8] [9]

Royal Society English learned society for science

The President, Council and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, commonly known as the Royal Society, is a learned society. Founded on 28 November 1660, it was granted a royal charter by King Charles II as "The Royal Society". It is the oldest national scientific institution in the world. The society is the United Kingdom's and Commonwealth of Nations' Academy of Sciences and fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, recognising excellence in science, supporting outstanding science, providing scientific advice for policy, fostering international and global co-operation, education and public engagement.

Theoretical chemistry academic field

Theoretical chemistry is a branch of chemistry, which develops theoretical generalizations that are part of the theoretical arsenal of modern chemistry, for example, the concept of chemical bonding, chemical reaction, valence, the surface of potential energy, molecular orbitals, orbital interactions, molecule activation etc.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine. This award is administered by the Nobel Foundation, and awarded by Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on proposal of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry which consists of five members elected by Academy. The award is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.


Early life and education

Pople was born in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, and attended the Bristol Grammar School. He won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1943. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1946. Between 1945 and 1947 he worked at the Bristol Aeroplane Company. He then returned to the University of Cambridge and was awarded his PhD in mathematics in 1951 on lone pair electrons. [2]

Burnham-on-Sea town in Somerset, England

Burnham-on-Sea is a large seaside town in Somerset, England, at the mouth of the River Parrett, upon Bridgwater Bay. Burnham was a small fishing village until the late 18th century, when it began to grow because of its popularity as a seaside resort.

Bristol Grammar School English co-educational independent day school located in Tyndalls Park, Bristol

Bristol Grammar School (BGS) is a 4–18 mixed, independent day school in Bristol, England that was founded in 1532 by Royal Charter for the teaching of 'good manners and literature', endowed by wealthy Bristol merchants Robert and Nicholas Thorne to educate the sons of the city's merchants and tradesmen. The school flourished in the early 20th century under headmaster Sir Cyril Norwood (1906–1916), embodying "the ideals and experiences of a leading public school". Norwood went on to serve as the master at Marlborough College and Harrow.

Trinity College, Cambridge constituent college of the University of Cambridge in England

Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in England. With around 600 undergraduates, 300 graduates, and over 180 fellows, it is the largest college in either of the Oxbridge universities by number of undergraduates. In terms of total student numbers, it is second only to Homerton College, Cambridge.


After obtaining his PhD, he was a research fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge and then from 1954 a lecturer in the mathematics faculty at Cambridge. In 1958, he moved to the National Physical Laboratory, near London as head of the new basics physics division. He moved to the United States of America in 1964, where he lived the rest of his life, though he retained British citizenship. Pople considered himself more of a mathematician than a chemist, but theoretical chemists consider him one of the most important of their number. [10] In 1964 he moved to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he had experienced a sabbatical in 1961 to 1962. In 1993 he moved to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where he was Trustees Professor of Chemistry until his death. [11]

Faculty of Mathematics, University of Cambridge

The Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge comprises the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics (DPMMS) and the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP). It is housed in the Centre for Mathematical Sciences site in West Cambridge, alongside the Isaac Newton Institute. Many distinguished mathematicians have been members of the faculty.

Carnegie Mellon University private research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a private nonprofit research university based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie as the Carnegie Technical Schools, the university became the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1912 and began granting four-year degrees. In 1967, the Carnegie Institute of Technology merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research to form Carnegie Mellon University. With its main campus located 3 miles (5 km) from Downtown Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon has grown into an international university with over a dozen degree-granting locations in six continents, including campuses in Qatar and Silicon Valley, and more than 20 research partnerships.

Northwestern University Private research university in Illinois, United States

Northwestern University (NU) is a private research university based in Evanston, Illinois, United States, with other campuses located in Chicago and Doha, Qatar, and academic programs and facilities in Miami, Florida; Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco, California. Along with its undergraduate programs, Northwestern is known for its Kellogg School of Management, Pritzker School of Law, Feinberg School of Medicine, Bienen School of Music, Medill School of Journalism, and McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.


Pople's major scientific contributions were in four different areas: [12]

Statistical mechanics of water

Pople's early paper on the statistical mechanics of water, according to Michael J. Frisch, "remained the standard for many years. [12] [13] This was his thesis topic for his PhD at Cambridge supervised by John Lennard-Jones. [2] [10]

Statistical mechanics is one of the pillars of modern physics. It is necessary for the fundamental study of any physical system that has a large number of degrees of freedom. The approach is based on statistical methods, probability theory and the microscopic physical laws.

John Lennard-Jones British scientist

Sir John Edward Lennard-Jones KBE, FRS was a British mathematician who was a professor of theoretical physics at University of Bristol, and then of theoretical science at the University of Cambridge. He may be regarded as the initiator of modern computational chemistry.

Nuclear magnetic resonance

In the early days of nuclear magnetic resonance he studied the underlying theory, and in 1959 he co-authored the textbook High Resolution Nuclear Magnetic Resonance with W.G. Schneider and H.J. Bernstein. [12]

Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopic technique relying on the energy difference between the quantum spin states of electrons when exposed to an external magnetic field

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is a physical phenomenon in which nuclei in a strong static magnetic field are perturbed by a weak oscillating magnetic field and respond by producing an electromagnetic signal with a frequency characteristic of the magnetic field at the nucleus. This process occurs near resonance, when the oscillation frequency matches the intrinsic frequency of the nuclei, which depends on the strength of the static magnetic field, the chemical environment, and the magnetic properties of the isotope involved; in practical applications with static magnetic fields up to ca. 20 tesla, the frequency is similar to VHF and UHF television broadcasts (60–1000 MHz). NMR results from specific magnetic properties of certain atomic nuclei. Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is widely used to determine the structure of organic molecules in solution and study molecular physics, crystals as well as non-crystalline materials. NMR is also routinely used in advanced medical imaging techniques, such as in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

William George Schneider, is a Canadian chemist and research administrator, who was president of the National Research Council of Canada from 1967 to 1980. He was president of IUPAC in 1983–1985.

Semi-empirical theory

He made major contributions to the theory of approximate molecular orbital (MO) calculations, starting with one identical to the one developed by Rudolph Pariser and Robert G. Parr on pi electron systems, and now called the Pariser-Parr-Pople method. [14] Subsequently, he developed the methods of Complete Neglect of Differential Overlap (CNDO) (in 1965) and Intermediate Neglect of Differential Overlap (INDO) for approximate MO calculations on three-dimensional molecules, and other developments in computational chemistry. In 1970 he and David Beveridge coauthored the book Approximate Molecular Orbital Theory describing these methods.

Ab initio electronic structure theory

Pople pioneered the development of more sophisticated computational methods, called ab initio quantum chemistry methods, that use basis sets of either Slater type orbitals or Gaussian orbitals to model the wave function. While in the early days these calculations were extremely expensive to perform, the advent of high speed microprocessors has made them much more feasible today. He was instrumental in the development of one of the most widely used computational chemistry packages, the Gaussian suite of programs, including coauthorship of the first version, Gaussian 70. [15] One of his most important original contributions is the concept of a model chemistry whereby a method is rigorously evaluated across a range of molecules. [12] [16] His research group developed the quantum chemistry composite methods such as Gaussian-1 (G1) and Gaussian-2 (G2). In 1991, Pople stopped working on Gaussian and several years later he developed (with others) the Q-Chem computational chemistry program. [17] Prof. Pople's departure from Gaussian, along with the subsequent banning of many prominent scientists, including himself, from using the software gave rise to considerable controversy among the quantum chemistry community. [18]

The Gaussian molecular orbital methods were described in the 1986 book Ab initio molecular orbital theory by Warren Hehre, Leo Radom, Paul v.R. Schleyer and Pople. [19]

Awards and honours

Pople received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1998. [20] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1961. [1] He was made a Knight Commander (KBE) of the Order of the British Empire in 2003. He was a founding member of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science.

An IT room and a scholarship are named after him at Bristol Grammar School, as is a supercomputer at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

Personal life

Pople married Joy Bowers in 1952 and was married until her death from cancer in 2002. Pople died of liver cancer in Chicago in 2004. He was survived by his daughter Hilary, and sons Adrian, Mark and Andrew. [21] In accordance with his wishes, Pople's Nobel Medal was given to Carnegie Mellon University by his family on 5 October 2009.

See also

Related Research Articles

Computational chemistry is a branch of chemistry that uses computer simulation to assist in solving chemical problems. It uses methods of theoretical chemistry, incorporated into efficient computer programs, to calculate the structures and properties of molecules and solids. It is necessary because, apart from relatively recent results concerning the hydrogen molecular ion, the quantum many-body problem cannot be solved analytically, much less in closed form. While computational results normally complement the information obtained by chemical experiments, it can in some cases predict hitherto unobserved chemical phenomena. It is widely used in the design of new drugs and materials.

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In chemistry, Molecular orbital (MO) theory is a method for describing the electronic structure of molecules using quantum mechanics. Electrons are not assigned to individual bonds between atoms, but are treated as moving under the influence of the nuclei in the whole molecule. The spatial and energetic properties of electrons are described by quantum mechanics as molecular orbitals surround two or more atoms in a molecule and contain valence electrons between atoms. Molecular orbital theory, which was proposed in the early twentieth century, revolutionized the study of bonding by approximating the states of bonded electrons—the molecular orbitals—as linear combinations of atomic orbitals (LCAO). These approximations are now made by applying the density functional theory (DFT) or Hartree–Fock (HF) models to the Schrödinger equation.

Gaussian is a general purpose computational chemistry software package initially released in 1970 by John Pople and his research group at Carnegie Mellon University as Gaussian 70. It has been continuously updated since then. The name originates from Pople's use of Gaussian orbitals to speed up molecular electronic structure calculations as opposed to using Slater-type orbitals, a choice made to improve performance on the limited computing capacities of then-current computer hardware for Hartree–Fock calculations. The current version of the program is Gaussian 16. Originally available through the Quantum Chemistry Program Exchange, it was later licensed out of Carnegie Mellon University, and since 1987 has been developed and licensed by Gaussian, Inc.

Q-Chem is a general-purpose electronic structure package featuring a variety of established and new methods implemented using innovative algorithms that enable fast calculations of large systems on regular lab workstations using density functional and wave-function based approaches. It offers an integrated graphical interface and input generator, large selection of functionals and correlation methods including methods for electronically excited states and open-shell systems. In addition to serving the computational chemistry community, Q-Chem also provides a versatile code development platform.

In molecular physics, the Pariser–Parr–Pople method applies semi-empirical quantum mechanical methods to the quantitative prediction of electronic structures and spectra, in molecules of interest in the field of organic chemistry. Previous methods existed—such as the Hückel method which led to Hückel's rule—but were limited in their scope, application and complexity, as is the Extended Hückel method.

Møller–Plesset perturbation theory (MP) is one of several quantum chemistry post-Hartree–Fock ab initio methods in the field of computational chemistry. It improves on the Hartree–Fock method by adding electron correlation effects by means of Rayleigh–Schrödinger perturbation theory (RS-PT), usually to second (MP2), third (MP3) or fourth (MP4) order. Its main idea was published as early as 1934 by Christian Møller and Milton S. Plesset.

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Spartan (chemistry software)

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Semi-empirical quantum chemistry methods are based on the Hartree–Fock formalism, but make many approximations and obtain some parameters from empirical data. They are very important in computational chemistry for treating large molecules where the full Hartree–Fock method without the approximations is too expensive. The use of empirical parameters appears to allow some inclusion of electron correlation effects into the methods.

Ab initio quantum chemistry methods are computational chemistry methods based on quantum chemistry. The term ab initio was first used in quantum chemistry by Robert Parr and coworkers, including David Craig in a semiempirical study on the excited states of benzene. The background is described by Parr. Ab initio means "from first principles" or "from the beginning", implying that the only inputs into an ab initio calculation are physical constants. Ab initio quantum chemistry methods attempt to solve the electronic Schrödinger equation given the positions of the nuclei and the number of electrons in order to yield useful information such as electron densities, energies and other properties of the system. The ability to run these calculations has enabled theoretical chemists to solve a range of problems and their importance is highlighted by the awarding of the Nobel prize to John Pople and Walter Kohn.

Quantum chemistry composite methods are computational chemistry methods that aim for high accuracy by combining the results of several calculations. They combine methods with a high level of theory and a small basis set with methods that employ lower levels of theory with larger basis sets. They are commonly used to calculate thermodynamic quantities such as enthalpies of formation, atomization energies, ionization energies and electron affinities. They aim for chemical accuracy which is usually defined as within 1 kcal/mol of the experimental value. The first systematic model chemistry of this type with broad applicability was called Gaussian-1 (G1) introduced by John Pople. This was quickly replaced by the Gaussian-2 (G2) which has been used extensively. The Gaussian-3 (G3) was introduced later.

Pople diagram

A Pople diagram or Pople's Diagram is a diagram which describes the relationship between various calculation methods in computational chemistry. It was initially introduced in January 1965 by Sir John Pople,, during the Symposium of Atomic and Molecular Quantum Theory in Florida. The Pople Diagram can be either 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional, with the axes representing ab inito methods, basis sets and treatment of relativity. The diagram attempts to balance calculations by giving all aspects of a computation equal weight.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Buckingham, A. D. (2006). "Sir John Anthony Pople. 31 October 1925 -- 15 March 2004: Elected FRS 1961". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society . 52: 299–314. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2006.0021.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 John Pople at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. Martin Head-Gordon IAQMS page
  4. Krishnan Raghavachari page
  5. Gordon, M. S.; Kim, H. J.; Ratner, M. A. (2005). "John Anthony Pople". Physics Today . 58 (4): 79–80. Bibcode:2005PhT....58d..79G. doi:10.1063/1.1955494.
  6. O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "John Pople", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive , University of St Andrews .
  7. Pople's autobiography,
  8. Pople's early photo (1950's)
  9. John Pople Oral history (pdf) Archived 18 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  10. 1 2 Wright, Pearce (19 March 2004). "Obituary Sir John Pople". The Guardian.
  11. John Pople Chronology at Gaussian. Archived 24 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  12. 1 2 3 4 Frisch, Michael J. (17 March 2004). "Reflections on John Pople's Career and Legacy". Archived from the original on 24 July 2010.
  13. Pople, J. A. (1951). "Molecular Association in Liquids: II. A Theory of the Structure of Water". Proceedings of the Royal Society A . 205 (1081): 163–178. Bibcode:1951RSPSA.205..163P. doi:10.1098/rspa.1951.0024.
  14. Steinborn, E. Otto; Homeier, Herbert H. H. (1990). "Möbius-Type quadrature of electron repulsion integrals withB functions". International Journal of Quantum Chemistry . 38: 349–371. doi:10.1002/qua.560382435.
  15. Gaussian's page on John Pople Archived 24 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  16. Pople, J. A. (1973). D. W. Smith, ed. "Theoretical Models for Chemistry". Proceedings of the Summer Research Conference on Theoretical Chemistry, Energy Structure and Reactivity. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  17. Pople's Q-Chem page
  18. Giles, Jim (2004). "Software company bans competitive users". Nature. 429 (6989): 231–231. Bibcode:2004Natur.429..231G. doi:10.1038/429231a. ISSN   0028-0836. PMID   15152213.
  19. "AB INITIO Molecular Orbital Theory". Wiley. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  20. Official homepage of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1998
  21. Notable Biographies