N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Convocation date: October 23, 1999
Discipline / contribution: chemistry
Citation / biographical information:
William Graham is a Saskatchewan native and a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan (BA., M.A.), where his graduate work was supervised by Thorbergur Thorvaldson and John W.T. Spinks. He completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1956 under the direction of F.G.A. Stone, Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Southern California, he joined the research and consulting firm of Arthur D. Little, Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Degree received: Doctor of Science
In 1962, Dr. Graham returned to Canada and an academic career at the University of Alberta. Within a few years, the systematic studies of organometallic compounds and metal carbonyl derivatives undertaken by his research group had attracted international attention and were recognized in 1970 by the Chemical Institute of Canada’s Noranda Lecture Award. Subsequently, new syntheses of compounds having silicon-transition metal bonds were developed, and among these products a novel and important siliconhydrogentransition metal interaction was identified. Other notable discoveries of the 1970-82 period were a series of non-rigid six-coordinate complexes displaying stereospecific ligand exchange; formally unsaturated binuclear complexes; the first monohapto cycloheptatrienyl-transition metal compounds; and the stepwise reduction of coordinated carbon monoxide.
Or. Graham’s best known work followed from his 1982 discovery that a highly reactive iridium intermediate will insert into the carbon-hydrogen bonds of alkanes at ordinary temperatures to form a well-defined product. The carbon-hydrogen bond is said to have been activated in this process. The intense interest in this step arises from the hope that it will open the way to efficient catalytic cycles operating under mild conditions in which abundant alkanes are convened to more valuable petrochemicals.
Dr. Graham has served on the editorial boards of several inorganic journals and reference works. He was a McCalla Research Professor at the University of Alberta, which also awarded him its Kaplan Research Prize in 1991. In the same year he received the E.W.R. Steacie Award of the Canadian Society for Chemistry. He was a
Centenary Lecturer of Royal Society of Chemistry (London) in 1987-88. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 1994, he received the Chemical Institute of Canada Medal, the highest award of that society.
Although he retired from the University of Alberta in 1995, he is currently serving as Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Science of the University of AIberta.
Degree presented by: John Weil, Professor Emeritus, Department of Chemistry
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