The University of Texas at Dallas
Ray H. Baughman, Ph. D.
The Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair
in Chemistry #1
“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but rather “hmm…that’s funny…”
– Isaac Asimov, 20th century author and biochemist
Basic research, unlike applied research which is designed to solve practical problems, is driven by a researcher’s curiosity in a scientific question such as, “I wonder why that liquid turned blue?” Basic research, although it has no commercial value in the foreseeable future, has been vital to the advancement of applied scientific research. Because there is no guarantee of practical gain, scientists often find it difficult to obtain funding for basic research – unless the research is in chemistry by scientists in Texas.
One of the founding principles of The Welch Foundation is that basic research in chemistry is just as necessary and important as applied research. Chemists in Texas have received $572 million from The Welch Foundation since it was founded in 1952 with a bequest from Robert A. Welch. Mr. Welch believed in the value of research in chemistry and its potential to contribute to the betterment of humanity. He also had a deep love for his adopted state of Texas.
Welch left his home in South Carolina in 1886 at the age of 14 and moved to Houston, Texas, determined to make his way in the world and improve the living conditions of his parents. His vigorous work ethic, frugality, self confidence, and lifelong pursuit of knowledge allowed him to achieve the success that enabled him to leave a legacy through research in chemistry funded by The Welch Foundation. Welch’s generosity and the genius of his vision that “great possibilities for the betterment of mankind lay in the field of research in the domain of chemistry” have resulted in The Welch Foundation playing a significant role in Texas as the size, scope, and significance of chemical research in the state has grown.
Robert A. Welch
Ray H. Baughman, Ph. D., holder of The Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry #1 at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), is one of 42 endowed chairs in chemistry at 20 Texas institutions made possible by funding from The Welch Foundation. Baughman and his team of scientists have received multiple awards for their breakthroughs in fabricating carbon nanotube yarns and sheets. Most recently, Baughman was named to the 2006 Scientific American 50, a prestigious list published annually to recognize outstanding contributions in the fields of science and technology. The team’s development of carbon nanotubes into strong, tough, electronically, and thermally conducting nanotube yarns and transparent sheets was listed as 8th in Discover magazine’s 100 most important news stories of 2005. The yarns and sheets are produced at up to 30 meters per minute by the coordinated rotation of trillions of nanotubes per minute for every centimeter of sheet width. To visualize a nanometer, if each of the estimated 23 million people living in Texas in 2005 were one nanometer wide, the entire 23 million could stand side-by-side on the edge of a U. S. postage stamp.
The Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry #1, established in 1998 and invested in the Long Term Fund, had a market value of $3,030,884 as of August 31, 2006.