Rudolph A. Marcus is the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology. He is a graduate of McGill University, where he received his BS degree in chemistry in 1943 and his PhD in 1946, studying the kinetics of nitration under the supervision of Carl Winkler. In 1946, he moved to the National Research Council of Canada as a postdoctoral fellow with E. W. R. Steacie and turned his attention to gas phase reaction rates. In 1949, Marcus changed his focus to theoretical chemistry, and began a second postdoc with Oscar K. Rice at the University of North Carolina. It was there that he formulated a particular case of what came to be known as RRKM (Rice-Ramsperger-Kassel-Marcus) theory. In 1951, he began his independent research career at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, where he served as Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor. At Brooklyn Poly, he began an experimental program on gas and solution phase reaction rates, fully developed the RRKM theory, and worked on electron transfer. By 1960, he decided to close down his experimental research program and focus exclusively on theory.
In 1964, Marcus joined the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and worked on electron transfer and other aspects of reaction dynamics, including introducing action-angle variables into molecular collisions, reaction dynamics, and semiclassical theories of collisions and bound states. In 1978, he moved to the California Institute of Technology and turned his attention to the fields of unimolecular reactions, intramolecular dynamics, and electron transfer processes.
Marcus is well-known for his receipt of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Chemistry 'for his contributions to the theory of electron transfer reactions in chemical systems'. He has also been awarded seven awards and medals by the American Chemical Society, including the Irving Langmuir and Peter Debye Awards. He has also received the National Medal of Science (1989), is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and is a foreign member of the Royal Society of London. He has served on many editorial boards, including those of the Journal of Chemical Physics and the Journal of Physical Chemistry. He holds 14 honorary doctorates (including one from the University of Illinois, 1997), and has authored over 340 scientific papers to date.