Benton Seymour Rabinovitch was one of the pioneers of chemical dynamics. His brilliant experiments performed during his four decades as a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Washington in Seattle provided most of our early quantitative measurements of the efficiency with which energy is transferred between molecules in gas-phase molecule–molecule collisions and in collisions of molecules with solid surfaces. More importantly, his work provided quantitative estimates of the rates with which vibrational energy deposited locally within a molecule is redistributed among the many vibrational modes within that molecule, proving that the equilibration of this vibrational energy among these modes almost always occurs in approximately one picosecond. He further showed that this validates (in most cases) the assumptions of Rice–Ramsperger–Kassel–Marcus (RRKM) theory. He also developed several widely used mathematical shortcuts for using RRKM theory to make important predictions about physical chemistry. These shortcuts greatly increased both the applications and impact of RRKM theory, so that it has become one of the most important theories of physical chemistry. It continues to guide much of our fundamental understanding of chemical dynamics and reaction kinetics even today. In addition to being a great scientist, Seymour Rabinovitch was a devoted husband and father. He raised four accomplished children, and later in life became an expert in the art of silversmithing, a writer of children's books, and a philanthropist. His offspring are following beautifully in his footsteps in their kindness to fellow human beings, their excellence in scholarship, science and art, and in their energetic dedication to improving the world through teaching, research, service and philanthropy. The same can be said for his academic offspring as well.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society