National Academy of Inventors elects Chancellor Wrighton as Fellow


Mark S. Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis and the holder of 16 patents, has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

Election to NAI Fellow status is a high professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.

The 143 innovators elected to NAI Fellow status in 2013 represent 94 universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes. Together, they hold more than 5,600 U.S. patents.

Included in the 2013 class are 26 presidents and senior leadership of research universities and nonprofit research institutes, 69 members of the National Academies, five inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation, two recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Science and nine Nobel Laureates, among other major awards and distinctions.

Andy Faile, deputy U.S. commissioner for patents at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, will induct the new fellows during the third annual conference of the National Academy of Inventors March 7 in Alexandria, Va., at the headquarters of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Fellows will be presented with a special trophy and a rosette pin.

Since Wrighton became WUSTL’s 14th chancellor in 1995, the university has made significant progress in student quality, campus improvements, resource development, curriculum and international reputation. Washington University is a top recipient of federal, industrial and foundation research support for its programs in medicine, science, engineering and social science, with more than $500 million provided annually from external sponsors.

Wrighton, who earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in chemistry from Florida State University in 1969, received the Monsanto Chemistry Award for outstanding research upon his graduation. He did his graduate work at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), earning his PhD there in 1972. His doctoral dissertation was on “Photoprocesses in Metal-Containing Molecules.” He was named the first recipient of the Herbert Newby McCoy Award at Caltech based on his research accomplishments.

Wrighton started his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1972 as assistant professor of chemistry. He was appointed associate professor in 1976 and professor in 1977. From 1981-89, he held the Frederick G. Keyes Chair in Chemistry. In 1989, he was appointed the first holder of the Ciba-Geigy Chair in Chemistry. He was head of MIT’s chemistry department from 1987 until 1990, when he became MIT’s provost, a position he held until becoming WUSTL’s chancellor.

Wrighton is the author or co-author of more than 300 articles published in professional and scholarly journals. He has research interests in the areas of transition metal catalysis, photochemistry, surface chemistry, molecular electronics and in photoprocesses at electrodes.

He was profiled in the September 1980 issue of Fortune, along with eight other U.S. scientists under age 40, highlighting his efforts in duplicating photosynthesis. In 1984, Science Digest included him as one of America’s brightest scientists under age 40, and in 1985, named him one of America’s top 100 innovators of the year.

U.S. News & World Report featured Wrighton in a February 1988 cover story on “The New American Establishment” and Business Week’s 1989 special issue on “Innovation in America” profiled his work on molecular electronics and included him as one of the 10 innovators in science.

He also was included in Esquire’s 1989 Register along with 38 other men and women “who are making America a smarter, healthier, wealthier, safer, livelier, prettier, all around more interesting place to live.”

The recipient of a 1983 MacArthur Prize Fellowship, his other awards include the 1983 Gregory and Freda Halpern Award in Photochemistry by the New York Academy of Sciences and the E.O. Lawrence Award by the U.S. Department of Energy. He was named the 2007 St. Louis “Citizen of the Year,” an annual award presented by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. For his outstanding contributions to both Washington University and the St. Louis region, Wrighton was selected as the 2010 winner of the Right Arm of St. Louis Award — the most prestigious individual honor conferred by the St. Louis Regional Chamber.

Academic inventors and innovators elected to the rank of NAI Fellow were nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation.

The NAI Fellows Selection Committee comprises 13 members, including NAI Charter Fellows, recipients of U.S. National Medals, National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, members of the National Academies and senior officials from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of University Technology Managers and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.