Information for Researchers
Scope and Content of Collection
Collection Title: George C. Pimentel papers
Date (inclusive): 1880-1990,
Date (bulk): bulk 1939-1990
Collection Number: BANC MSS 90/139 c
Pimentel, George C.
Number of containers: 60 cartons, 13 boxes
Linear feet: 81.55
The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California, 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
Fax: (510) 642-7589
Abstract: This collection documents George C. Pimentel's career in the field
of chemistry. It includes information on his research, teaching, public service, travel and
meetings, and engagement in the community of the University of California at Berkeley. Of
particular interest are materials regarding his lobbying in Congress for science funding,
his research on and involvement in the Mariner 6 and 7 expeditions, development of the
chemical laser, research on matrix isolation, and the publication of "The Pimentel Report".
Materials include: biographical information, research notes and data, correspondence,
meeting records, lecture notes, drafts of publications, and article reprints.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English.
Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite
and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research, with the following exceptions: cartons 49 and 50.
Copyright has been assigned to The Bancroft Library. Materials in these collections are
protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) and may not be used without
permission of The Bancroft Library. Use may be restricted by terms of University of
California gift or purchase agreements, privacy and publicity rights, licensing terms, and
trademarks. All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection
materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft
Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See:
Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of
digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.
[Identification of item], George C. Pimentel Papers, BANC MSS 90/139 c, The Bancroft
Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Alternate Forms Available
There are no alternate forms of this collection.
Additional materials regarding the CHEM Study are available through the Chemical Heritage
Audiovisual materials have been separated.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the
library's online public access catalog.
Pimentel, George C. Archives
University of California,
Berkeley. Dept. of Chemistry
United States. National
Aeronautics and Space Administration
Chemistry--Study and teaching (Higher)
Matrix isolation spectroscopy
(Planet)--Exploration--Equipment and supplies
National Science Foundation
Lawrence Berkeley National
American Chemical Society
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
Chemical Biodynamics Division
The George C. Pimentel papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Jeanne Pimentel on
March 8, 1990.
No additions are expected.
System of Arrangement
Arranged to the folder level.
Bancroft Library staff in 2008-2009.
Born on May 2, 1922, in Rolinda, CA, George. Pimentel received a Bachelor of Arts degree
from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1943. After a year working on
the Manhattan Project at UC Berkeley and more than two years in the Navy, he returned to
Berkeley to complete his graduate work. After earning his PhD in 1949, Dr. Pimentel joined
the faculty at Berkeley and ten years later attained the rank of professor. From 1966 to
1968 he served as the Chair of the Chemistry Department. He served on the UC Select
Committee on Education in 1965-1966. He was a member of the Lunar and Planetary Missions
Board, an advisory unit to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), from
1967-1970 and a member of the National Academy's Committee on Science and Public Policy
from 1975-1977. From July 1977 to June 1980, he served as Deputy Director of the National
Science Foundation. In 1980 he assumed directorship of the Laboratory of Chemical
Biodynamics, a division of the Lawrence Berkeley (National) Laboratory, and served until
1988. Dr. Pimentel was elected President of the American Chemical Society, serving in
1986. He spoke and wrote frequently and effectively as an advocate of basic research,
scientific literacy, improvement of the public image of chemistry, and the value of the
university. Dr. Pimentel died of cancer in his home in Kensington, CA in 1989.
Dr. Pimentel's research was in the fields of infrared spectroscopy, chemical lasers,
molecular structure, free radicals, and hydrogen bonding. His interests centered on the
application of spectroscopic methods to the study of unusual chemical bonding. A major
contribution was the development and exploitation of the matrix isolation method for the
spectroscopic detection of highly unstable molecules. Application of this matrix isolation
method let to the discovery of many unusual and highly reactive molecules that could not
otherwise have been detected.
Dr. Pimentel's pioneering development of rapid scan techniques for infrared spectroscopy
extended to the gas phase these spectroscopic studies of normally transient species. This
work led to the design of a unique infrared spectrometer for the 1969 Mariner spacecraft
that flew by Mars in 1969 to determine the composition of its atmosphere and surface..
During studies of photochemical reactions, Dr. Pimentel and his student Jerome Kasper
discovered the first chemically pumped laser. Flash photolysis methods on the microsecond
time scale permitted the measurement, through laser emissions, of nascent population
inversions produced in the normal course of a chemical reaction. A variety of chemically
pumped vibrational and rotational lasers have been discovered in his laboratory, providing
valuable state-to-state kinetic information.
Teaching and writing
An enthusiastic teacher, Dr. Pimentel lectured in freshman chemistry throughout his
career at Berkeley. He chaired the committee appointed by the National Research Council of
the National Academy of Sciences to identify for Congress prime areas for research in the
chemical sciences. The report,
Opportunities in Chemistry,
The Pimentel Report) was released by the Academy
in 1985 and revised in 1987 for a broader audience. Dr. Pimentel was always concerned with
the quality of teaching in secondary schools and was editor of the CHEM Study project
which was devoted to the development of an innovative high school chemistry textbook,
Chemistry-An Experimental Science. He also
collaborated in the production of several educational films, including one which concerns
the impact of science on the quality of life. His name is listed in Outstanding Educators
of America. In 1958, Dr. Pimentel received the campus Teaching Award at UC Berkeley on the
basis of student nominations and evaluations. He received and was nominated for many other
teaching and industry awards throughout his career. The ACS Award in Chemical Education,
which he won posthumously in 1990, is now known as the George C. Pimentel Award.
Scope and Content of Collection
This collection documents George C. Pimentel's career in the field of chemistry. It
includes information on his research, teaching, public service, travel and meetings, and
engagement in the community of the University of California at Berkeley. Of particular
interest are materials regarding his lobbying in Congress for science funding, his research
on and involvement in the Mariner 6 and 7expeditions, development of the chemical laser,
research on matrix isolation, and the publication of "The Pimentel Report". Materials
include: biographical information, research notes and data, correspondence, meeting records,
lecture notes, drafts of publications, and article reprints.
The collection is organized into 12 series: Biographical Information, American Chemical
Society, Correspondence, Course Work, Meetings and Travel, Opportunities in Chemistry,
Public Service, Research, Talks, Teaching, University of California, and Writings.