Donald J. Cram


Donald J. Cram

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Donald J. Cram
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1987

Born: 22 April 1919, Chester, VT, USA

Died: 17 June 2001, Palm Desert, CA, USA

Affiliation at the time of the award: University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Prize motivation: “for their development and use of molecules with structure-specific interactions of high selectivity”

Prize share: 1/3


Donald Cram was born and raised in Chester, Vermont. When Cram was four years old, his father died. Because money was scarce, Cram began working at an early age and was able to continue his education thanks to scholarships. After studies at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he worked at Merck & Co. He received his doctorate at Harvard University in 1947. He subsequently worked at UCLA in Los Angeles. Donald Cram was married twice, first to Jean Turner and then to Jane Maxwell.


Chemical reactions often occur through the influence of molecules that have cavities and pockets where other atoms and molecules can be attached to then join with other molecules. After Charles Pedersen discovered crown ethers, molecules that can capture certain metallic atoms, Donald Cram succeeded in building molecules with the ability to attach specific atoms and molecules to themselves. This made it possible to create chemical compounds through chemical reactions that have a significant impact on biological processes.

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