Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science

Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science

Created on: Dec-20-2013   Last updated: Dec-20-2013


8.5"x8.5" - Choice of Hardcover/Softcover - Color - Photo Book
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Joined: Dec-20-2013

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Royston, or Roy as he was usually called by his colleagues, was born and educated in Sherman, Texas, and continued his higher education as a chemistry major at Austin College in Sherman. After graduating in 1936, Roy pursued graduate studies in organic chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned both his MS (1941) and PhD (1944) degrees in chemistry, working with the well-known organic chemist Professor C. C. Price as his supervising professor for both degrees. With Price, Roy devised and patented a new synthesis for chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, which was implemented commercially for use by our armed forces in World War II, and which, amazingly, is still in use for the synthesis of this drug today. Armed with his PhD, Roy began his professional career as a research chemist with the Merck Company, where he briefly worked on chemistry related to penicillin. However, his real love was the academic environment and, after just one year at Merck, he accepted a Research Corporation Postdoctoral Fellowship with the renowned Professor Saul Winstein at the University of California at Los Angeles. As revealed by one of his letters to the chemistry department at The University of Texas, his goal, even prior to joining Professor Winstein’s group, was to return to Texas and embark there on a teaching and research career. Roy’s application to the Department of Chemistry here was well received and he was offered an assistant professorship at the princely salary of $3,000 (for the academic year). Although Roy very much wanted this position, he boldly rejected the initial offer, which was less than his postdoctoral salary at UCLA. After several stages of further negotiation, Roy finally accepted a sweetened offer of $3,400 and promptly began a distinguished research and teaching career that ultimately spanned nearly 50 years (1947-1996). Our longtime colleague and friend Royston M. Roberts passed away on October 26, 1996, at the age of 78, at his home in Austin, Texas. He is survived by his beloved wife, Phyllis, three sons (Richard, David, and Stanley), and a daughter (Jean Ellen).