February 25 – Happy Birthday, Oktay Sinanoğlu

Posted on February 25, 2018

The Turkish Einstein?

The youngest full professor in Yale University's 20th Century history? (Third youngest in Yale's 300 years of history!)

Fighter for the Turkish language?


Oktay Sinanoğlu was born in Italy, lived much of his adult life in the United States, and yet is still considered Turkish! Why not? His parents were from Turkey, and Sinanoğlu always identified as Turkish.

Born on this date in 1935, Sinanoğlu ended up going to U.S. colleges - University of California, Berkeley, and MIT! At age 28, Sinanoğlu became a full professor of chemistry at one of the most prestigious universities in the world: Yale, which is located in Connecticut. As I said before, he was record-breakingly young when he became a full professor. Sinanoğlu went on to win many awards and was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

I cannot pretend to really understand the contributions that
Sinanoğlu made in chemistry, molecular biophysics, biochemistry, and quantum chemistry... (Wow! Quantum chemistry?)

I read that Sinanoğlu started the theoretical chemistry division at Yale, and I've never heard of that before. "Chemistry" is not only a body of knowledge about the various elements that make up the universe and the ways in which they interact, combine, and change - it is also a very practical science with lots of applications in everything from plastics and medicine to electronics and food science.

But theoretical chemistry is a branch of chemistry that develops generalizations about important things like chemical bonding and reactions, molecular orbits and activation, and so forth.

I find the names of some of Sinanoğlu's works interesting: "Many Electron Theory of Atoms and Molecules," "Network Theory of Coupled Chemical Reactions," and "Sinanoğlu Made Simple"!

After retiring from Yale, Sinanoğlu and his family split their life between Texas and Istanbul, Turkey. Sinanoğlu consulted at various universities and even wrote a few books that were not about chemistry! One, Bye Bye Turkish, was about the need to preserve the Turkish language.

When he died at age 80, he was about to publish another book written in Turkish.

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