The End of an Era: Professor Michael McBride Retires

Ellen Bengtson | February 14, 2013

Professor McBride teaching his seminal organic chemistry course. Courtesy of Yale Open Courses.

After 46 years on the faculty of Yale University, Dr. J. Michael McBride retired this year from his position as the Richard M. Colgate Professor of Chemistry. On October 28 and 29, hundreds of colleagues, students, and friends—many regarded as all three—gathered at Yale’s Sterling Chemistry Laboratory to celebrate his multi-faceted career and accomplishments. Attendees hailed from all corners of the U.S. and the world.

The event included a research symposium centered on crystal growth and molecular recognition, the focus of McBride’s work. At the day’s conclusion, McBride delivered an address entitled “Good Luck and Good Friends in Science and Education.”

Appropriately, the symposium was held in SCL 160. It was this room in which McBride — then a Harvard graduate student — gave his first lecture, resulting in an invitation to join the Yale faculty, and this room in which McBride introduced generations of his freshman organic chemistry students to quantum mechanics, molecular orbital theory and Koerner’s proof of the structure of benzene.

McBride’s abilities as a teacher and mentor garnered him several Yale and national undergraduate teaching prizes. His signature course, Freshman Organic Chemistry, which is featured on Yale Open Courses, included not only traditional curriculum but also the historical background and epistemology of seminal discoveries in chemistry. With this more holistic perspective, McBride demystified the process behind groundbreaking science for his students.

McBride plans to continue to compile and publish his research, and he is furthermore excited to begin work on an innovative, interactive textbook modeled after his organic chemistry course. As he stepped down, he had the following advice for aspiring scientists of all ages: “Work hard at what you love.”