Pople, 66, was recognized for his contributions to theoretical chemistry, particularly his development of widely used quantum-chemical methods. In the mid-1960s, he and colleagues published a series of papers on the approximate self-consistent molecular orbital theory, based on quantum mechanics, which is used to calculate charge distributions and electronic dipole moments in organic molecules (Journal of Chemical Physics, 43:S129, 1965; 43:S136, 1965; 44:3289, 1966; 47:2026, 1967; 49:4643, 1968). The Wolf Foundation citation states that "his work has provided valuable theoretical tools for interpreting molecular spectra and inferring chemical functionality of large molecules. His easily applicable methods, supplied today in neat computer packages, help scientists obtain deep insight into the structure and activities of otherwise bewildering complexity."

Ironically, Pople does not have a degree in chemistry; he received his Dr.Ph. in 1951 in mathematics from Cambridge University in his native England. He got into chemistry, he recalls, as "a mathematics student...

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