The Science Survey

Allen Bard ’51

Researcher Still Inspired by Bronx Science Classes Seventy Years Later

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Allen Bard ’51

Bard happily tells current students about all of the work that he has accomplished through his career.

Bard happily tells current students about all of the work that he has accomplished through his career.

Johan Wichterle

Bard happily tells current students about all of the work that he has accomplished through his career.

Johan Wichterle

Johan Wichterle

Bard happily tells current students about all of the work that he has accomplished through his career.

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Although now he is “The Father of Electrochemistry,” a National Medal of Science recipient, and a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Allen Bard ’51 was once just a normal student at Bronx Science, singing in the chorus and thriving in his Chemistry classes.

Bard, a Bronx native, made the choice to go to Bronx Science while it was still a fairly new school. Despite only being around for ten years, Bronx Science was widely known as the school to be at for any aspiring scientists, such as Bard.

“I knew from grade school that if I could get into Bronx Science, I would be there,” Bard said.

Attending Bronx Science was “vital” in Bard’s decision to pursue science. He recalls that his teachers, Dr. Prince and Dr. Harlow, helped him to figure out exactly why he wanted to study chemistry.

Even with a passion for chemistry before and during high school, Bard was not exposed to the field of electrochemistry until he attended graduate school at Harvard University. There he did research with Jeffrey Wilkinson, an assistant professor specializing in inorganic chemistry. Bard hit a bump in the road when Wilkinson left Harvard mid-year, leaving Bard to search for a new group with whom to work. Since he felt knowledgeable in both electricity and chemistry, he joined a group focusing on electrochemistry.

“I took to electrochemistry like a duck to water,” Bard said.

“If Wilkinson had been given tenure, I probably would have been a totally different guy with a much worse career,” Bard said. “I took to electrochemistry like a duck to water.”

Bard realizes that the field of electrochemistry has evolved immensely since he first became involved in it. “When I got into electrochemistry, measuring a microamp was pretty hard to do. Now you can measure picoamps and even femtoamps,” he said. They are now able to measure particles a billion times smaller than they were able to when he first became involved in the field. This has allowed Bard’s research to evolve and given him new opportunities for research.

Throughout Bard’s career, he had a plethora of accomplishments. He is most widely known for discovering electrogenerated chemiluminescence: in a chemiluminescent reaction, the energy comes first from electricity, and then from chemicals, and then from light.

Since 1958, Bard has been a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. There, he is the director of the Center for Electrochemistry. Throughout his career, he has published over 900 peer-reviewed research pages, more than eighty book chapters, and three books. He was even elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1982. He won the Priestley Medal in 2002, the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 2008, and was even awarded a National Medal of Science in 2013 from President Obama. Now, Bard can add his induction into the Bronx Science Hall of Fame to his growing list of honorary recognitions.

Looking back on his career and his life, Bard not only has few regrets, but he has realized the immense role that Bronx Science has played in his life. So many years later, Bard is not done participating in research. “I’m always thinking that my best is yet to come, and I still think so, as strange as it sounds,” he said.

Currently, he is working on a way to put down single atoms and to use electrochemistry to further understand atoms and their properties. The original inspiration for this research started in his chemistry classes at Bronx Science. “I was set on the right path from here,” he said.

Victor Tesoro
Bard poses by the Hall of Fame with students interested in his work.

Victor Tesoro
After receiving his award, Allen Bard signs the Hall of Fame recipients’ book.

Victor Tesoro
Principal Dr. Jean Donahue presents Allen Bard with his award.

Victor Tesoro
Bard smiles as he receives his award for being part of the Hall of Fame from Principal Dr. Jean Donahue.

Victor Tesoro
Kate Slinchenkova ’18 interviews Bard in front of several classes in the library multipurpose room.

 

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Allen Bard ’51