Richard Bader, FCIC

Richard F. W. Bader, passed away in Burlington, Ontario on January 15, 2012, at age 80.

Bader was born in 1931 in Kitchener, Ontario. He obtained both his Bachelor and his Master’s degrees in chemistry from McMaster University. He received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1958 and did postdoctoral work at the University of Cambridge. From 1959 until 1963, Bader served in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Ottawa. He returned to McMaster in 1963 and the following year received the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. Despite tempting offers from international institutions, Bader was a proud Canadian, and chose to remain at McMaster for over 30 years, until his official retirement in 1996.

Bader was well known for his interest in the fundamental physics that underly all of chemistry. While studying under theoretical chemist Christopher Longuet-Higgins at Cambridge, Bader became convinced of the importance of electron density in explaining the behaviour of atoms in molecules. Over the course of the next few decades, he developed his quantum theory of atoms in molecules (QTAIM). It extended the theories of quantum mechanics to molecular structures, and showed how it was possible to predict their properties from those of their constituent atoms. QTAIM theory was outlined in Bader's magnum opus: “Atoms in Molecules: A Quantum Theory” published by Oxford University Press in 1990.

QTAIM theory was as controversial as it was groundbreaking, given that it boldly challenged conventional wisdom. Bader himself often wrote about the struggles he faced in getting journals to accept the key papers. But Bader, well known for his perseverance and forceful personality, fought on. In all Bader published 223 refereed articles and book chapters on theoretical chemistry and physics, 60 of them after his official retirement. His works have been cited over 26,000 times. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada, and the recipient of the 1979 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. On November 17, 2011, the Journal of Physical Chemistry A published a special “festschrift” issue dedicated to Bader, his work, his theories, and those inspired by him. Bader was one of the nominees for the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Richard is survived by his wife Pamela, daughters Carolyn, Kimberly and Suzanne, and grandson Alexander.

Thanks to Preston MacDougall of Middle Tennessee State University for providing the basis of this obituary. Photo Credit: Department of Chemical Engineering, McMaster University.

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