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Published July 18, 1996 | public
Journal Article

Robin M. Hochstrasser


Robin Hochstrasser was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on January 4, 1931. Robin's youth was very much influenced by the Second World War, and he still vividly describes the dogfights in the skies over the Firth of Forth just after the beginning of the war. Robin received an unconventional high school education, leaving him considerable time to become accomplished at tennis, bridge, and billiards. After receiving a B.Sc. degree in "applied chemistry" from the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, he obtained a Ph.D. degree from Edinburgh University in "pure chemistry" in 1955. Robin's thesis research was concerned with surface photochemistry, which aroused his interest in fundamental aspects of spectroscopy. In Britain of the 1950s, military service was obligatory, and Robin spent two years in the Royal Air Force as a Pilot Officer. During this period Robin developed one of his "secret weapons" in research; he studied mathematics through a correspondence course of the University of London and developed skills that sparked his interest in combining theory and experiment, and led him later to write the first textbook on group theory for chemical physicists. He also honed his billiards and tennis games, landing a position on an R.A.F. tennis team. His job in the air force was to teach electronics to the R.A.F. navigators so they could use and rapidly service the new high-altitude radar bombsights that had been installed in V-bombers. This is perhaps the only area where Robin did not show superior talent as a teacher. In the historical bombing raids on the Suez Canal, it was reported that all of Robin's students missed their Egyptian targets badly [fortunately].

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© 1996 American Chemical Society. Publication Date (Web): July 18, 1996.

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