Richard Robert Ernst (*1933)

Full professor of physical chemistry

Richard Robert Ernst was born in Winterthur on 14 August 1933. From 1952 to 1956, he was a chemistry student, then an assistant at ETH Zurich. In 1962 he completed a doctorate in nuclear resonance spectroscopy with a distinction, for which he received "a prize of CHF 1,000 (a thousand francs) from the Kern'schen Stiftung along with ETH Zurich's Silver Medal (external link)" (ETH Zurich University Archives, Schulratsprotokoll SR2: 1962, Sitzung Nr. 6 vom 29. September 1962, S. 560).

Fourier Transform nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

After his degree at ETH Zurich, Ernst spent five years at Varian Associates in Palo Alto, California (USA), from 1963 to 1968, where he developed, among other things, Fourier Transform nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which helped the nuclear resonance spectroscopy technique to make a breakthrough. In 1968 he returned to ETH Zurich and established a research group in NMR spectroscopy. He initially taught as a senior lecturer and assistant professor and from 1972 as an associate professor until he was eventually made a full professor of physical chemistry at ETH Zurich in 1976.   

Awarding the Nobel Prize for Chemistry

Today, Ernst is considered a pioneer of nuclear resonance spectroscopy. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy is used as spin tomography in medicine as an imaging diagnostic instrument without radiation exposure. In 1991 Ernst won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (external link) for his "contributions to the development of the method in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR spectroscopy)".

Besides the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1991), he has also received numerous awards and accolades.

To name a few

  • Marcel Benoist Prize (1986)
  • Wolf Prize (1991)
  • Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize (1991)

He has also received an honorary doctorate from

  • ETH Lausanne (1985)
  • Technical University Munich (1989)
  • University of Zurich (1994)
  • University of Antwerp (1997)
  • Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca
  • University of Montpellier

Ernst remained an influential figure on the Swiss and international research landscape after his retirement in 1998. He was also President of ETH Zurich's Research Commission from 1990 to 1994.

He is currently a member of the

  • Swiss Science Council
  • Board of Trustees of the Marcel Benoist Foundation
  • Supervisory Board of the Technical University Munich
  • US National Academy of Sciences
  • Royal Academy of Sciences in London
  • Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Korean Academy of Science and Technology
  • and is an honorary member of many other societies