Scientific pioneer Harry B. Gray to deliver Carleton opening convocation

September 6, 2017

In celebration of the opening of the 2017-18 academic year, esteemed scientist Harry B. Gray will present Carleton College’s opening convocation on Monday, Sept. 11 at 3 p.m. in the Skinner Memorial Chapel. As is College tradition, the assembly will be preceded by Carleton’s academic procession, including all current and emeriti faculty.

This event is free and open to the public. Convocations are also recorded and archived online at

A renowned chemist and recipient of the National Medal of Science, Gray currently serves as the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and the founding director of the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology.

Gray began his work in inorganic chemistry at Northwestern University, earning his Ph.D. in 1960. After a postdoctoral year at the University of Copenhagen, he joined the chemistry faculty at Columbia University. His main interests centered on the electronic structures and reactions of inorganic complexes. His research in the 1960s and several books that he published helped form the basis of modern education in inorganic chemistry. During this same time period, he pioneered the application of molecular orbital theory to describe the electronic structures of transition metal complexes. After moving to Caltech in 1966, he and co-workers began investigating the photochemistry of metal complexes, work that continues in various forms in his laboratories today. In the 1980s, Gray turned his attention to seminal research in the problem of electron transfer in biological systems. His contributions to chemistry include over 700 papers and 17 books.

Professor Gray’s research accomplishments are equaled only by his commitment to education. His inorganic and bioinorganic chemistry discoveries have provided invaluable scaffolding to Carleton’s instruction in these disciplines. Further, he is a prominent researcher whose current exploration of sustainable energy closely align with Carleton’s values and aspirations. As a passionate and inspirational scientist, Gray has been most gracious in his interactions with members of the Carleton community over the years:  whether making multi-day visits to campus to instruct and inspire our chemistry majors and faculty or encouraging greater understanding of the potential for solar energy as a visiting lecturer, he has consistently and significantly supported and guided this department at Carleton. 

Among his many awards, Gray has received the National Medal of Science and the National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences, as well as six national awards from the American Chemical Society. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the American Philosophical Society; and a foreign member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of Great Britain.

In recognition of his achievements and his service, Carleton College will award Harry B. Gray an honorary degree, doctor of science honoris causa

For more information about this event, including disability accommodations, contact the Carleton Office of College Communications at (507) 222-4308. The Skinner Memorial Chapel is located on First Street between College and Winona Streets in Northfield.