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John Roberts Dies

John Roberts, a Caltech organic chemist, has died, the New York Times reports. He was 98.

In the 1950s, Roberts made the use of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study chemical structures and reactions more popular, the Times says. "This was a real revolution for organic chemists at the time," Caltech's Peter Dervan tells the Times. "Jack saw the potential use of this spectroscopy and mastered it, and then, by publishing papers in this area, convinced other organic chemists that this was a powerful tool."

Roberts also paved the way for the more common use of isotopes as tracer molecules and, in the late 1940s while at MIT, he conducted an experiment that produced benzyne, confirming that this version of benzene with a triple bond did exist.

However, the Times notes that he has said that "best thing" he did at Caltech was to insist when he was offered a position there in 1953 that the school let his graduate student Dorothy Semenow in, at a time when Caltech did not admit women.

"He spearheaded the campaign to get Caltech to admit women," Semenow tells the Times. "He and Linus Pauling were very courageous in doing that."

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