F. Albert Cotton

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F. Albert Cotton was the W.T. Doherty-Welch Foundation Chair and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Texas A&M University until his death in Feb. 2007. His particular areas of interest included the structure, synthesis, and properties of bi- and polymetallic complexes, but he has contributed to many areas involving transition metals.


After a BS degree from Temple University in 1951, Cotton pursued a Ph.D thesis under the guidance of Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson at Harvard where he worked on metallocenes.[1] He received his Ph.D in 1955.

Independent career

Cotton began his career at MIT with an emphasis on both electronic structure and chemical synthesis. He pioneered the study of multiple bonding between metals, initially with research on rhenium halides,[2] but soon focusing on species related to chromium(II) acetate.[3] That work continues today. He also initiated a broad study on metal cluster compounds. He was an early proponent of single crystal X-ray diffraction as a routine tool for elucidating the rich chemistry of metal complexes. Through his studies on clusters, he demonstrated that many exhibited "fluxionality", whereby ligands interchange coordination sites on spectroscopically observable time-scales. He coined the term hapticity. In the early 1970's, he moved to his current location at Texas A&M, where he has continued to be a prolific publisher and influential mentor.

Pedagogical influence

In addition to his diverse research, Cotton has contributed to the pedagogy of inorganic chemistry. He authored "Chemical Applications of Group Theory".[4] This text introduced generations of chemists to the value of group theoretical analysis of bonding and spectroscopy. With his PhD advisor, he coauthored a text known simply as "Cotton and Wilkinson".[5] The text, which has had many editions, surveys the entirity of inorganic chemistry with an emphasis on post-Wernerian themes of cluster chemistry, homogeneous catalysis, and organometallic chemistry. Prior to "Cotton and Wilkinson", instruction in inorganic chemistry was more practically driven, less connected to organometallics, and less focused on molecular structure.


Cotton has published over 1600 papers. He has been honored throughout the world with prestigious prizes.

See also



  1. Wilkinson, G.; Pauson, P. L. and Cotton, F. A., "Bis-cyclopentadienyl compounds of nickel and cobalt", Journal of the American Chemical Society, 1954, 76, 1970-4.
  2. Bertrand, J. A.; Cotton, F. A. and Dollase, W. A., "Metal-metal bonded, polynuclear complex anion in CsReCl4", J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1963, 85, 1349-50
  3. Cotton, F. A.; Walton, R. A. “Multiple Bonds Between Metal Atoms” Oxford (Oxford): 1993. ISBN 0-19-855649-7.
  4. Cotton, F. A., "Chemical Applications of Group Theory," John Wiley & Sons: New York, 1990.
  5. Cotton, F. A. and Wilkinson, G., "Advanced Inorganic Chemistry", John Wiley and Sons: New York, 1988.