Skip to main content

Fred Basolo (1920-2007) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/8/6

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The Fred Basolo papers consist of biographical, correspondence, teaching, and publication files. Correspondence files dating between 1942 and 2006, and publications (bound and loose) comprise the majority of the papers. While there is little documentation of Basolo's teaching, the awards and commemorative letters he received (especially for his seventieth birthday) reflect his impact on his students. Basolo's extensive correspondence documents his personality and his interactions with other scientists and scientific organizations such as the ACS.

The biographical material, spanning from 1941 to 2005, is arranged into categories with the general biographical files first. This section holds his curriculum vitae, publication lists, date books, assorted news paper clippings, certificates and information regarding his national security clearances. Following that is a section of files pertaining to “Basolo 70”, a symposium dedicated to Basolo's concurrent 70th birthday and being named emeritus professor. These files contain several letters pertaining to the creation of the symposium and the eventual transformation into an award series, dozens of congratulatory cards and letters, and some financial documents showing the funds raised to defer cost of foreign guests. Basolo's education is represented by a copy of his master's thesis. Individual files document the many awards he received and guest lectures he presented between 1959 and 2005. Two of the awards, namely the Willard Gibbs Award and the Priestly Medal are given to award the greatest achievement in the field of chemistry. The general biographical files are arranged with the most specific subject files first, while the other subcategories are arranged alphabetically.

The largest category of the collection is the correspondence files, which date between 1942 and 2006. These files demonstrate the wide variety of contacts Basolo kept, several of which are of some notoriety, including industrial, academic and governmental chemists, former students and post-doctorate research assistants. In this section, the files are arranged first by subject, then alphabetically; within each folder the contents are in chronological order. After a small personal correspondence section containing letters and emails to his cousins and children, as well as some correspondence relating to the upkeep of his house and the purchase of a boat, the section continues into correspondence files dealing with Northwestern University - the department of chemistry, the college of arts and sciences, and the committees on which he served. Following that is a section of offers made by other companies and universities, including Basolo's first job at Rohm-Haas. The collection progresses into the professional and scholarly contacts, which are subdivided into more specific subject files. The general professional and scholarly correspondence comes first, including any evaluations, letters of recommendation and referee reports for journals (the latter two are restricted). The next files pertain to any award committees on which Basolo sat, and some major awards he has nominated others for (including the Nobel Prize). The next section, and the largest section contained in boxes seven through eleven, is the individual correspondence files. Arranged alphabetically by the surname of the individual, the files pertain to colleagues (both here at Northwestern and other Universities around the country), former students, and corporate contacts. Some of these files are small and hold no more than correspondence surrounding a student's admittance into Northwestern University, or a post-doctorate's hire; while others are quite lengthy and include both professional and personal correspondence. Following that is the section holding correspondence related to any professional organizations to which Basolo belonged, again with the more general files first and the specific sections organized alphabetically. In the professional organization subsection, the correspondence files for the ACS, NAS and NSF can be found, arranged alphabetically by subject. Both the corporations and court cases Basolo acted as an advisor for follow the professional organization files. Lastly, this section contains files chronicling his extensive travels as visiting professor.

The teaching files are small for the nature of this collection, containing mostly general lectures, notes, overheads, and classes taught late in his career. This is not because Basolo did not teach much, but rather, as indicated in his correspondence files, he gave away much of his teaching material in 1990 when he was named emeritus professor. Much of the material present does pertain to his most popular lecture on the history of inorganic chemistry.

The last section of the collection is files pertaining to his impressive list of publications. For convenience, a list of publications in chronological order is filed at the beginning of this section. There are two subsections: the first contains reprints of all of his articles, most bound in four separate volumes organized chronologically by date of publication. Unbound articles are also organized chronologically, and some specific notes about a few articles that were more of a historical aspect follow the reprints. The second subsection contains files surrounding his books, including several files dealing with his autobiography, and the Chinese translation. In some cases, books or compilations dedicated to Basolo but not containing material written by him are represented by the cover and title page alone.

Addition, Sub-Series 1 This addition to the papers of Fred Basolo features biographical materials, including Basolo's Southern Illinois University undergraduate yearbooks, The Obelisk; records of his 1990 receipt of the Mosher Award; articles in the Southern Illinois Alumni publication, Southern Alumni, and in Chemical and Engineering News regarding his Priestly Medal award; and his comments as President of the American Chemical Society, as published in Chemical and Engineering News. Also included are: a photograph album documenting several of Basolo's trips to China and an oversized 85th birthday card from the participants in the Gordon Research Conference of 2005.


  • 1941-2006


Conditions Governing Access

Boxes 1-23 of this collection are stored off-site and require two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection. Files pertaining to letters of recommendation (box 5, folders 6 through 8), as well as any referee reports for submitted manuscripts (box 5, folders 9 and 10) are restricted; consultation with University Archivist required prior to use.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored at a remote campus location and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


24.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



Fred Basolo was an inorganic chemist who lived from 1920 – 2007. He was awarded a Ph.D. from University of Illinois, at Urbana-Champaign in 1943. In 1946, Basolo joined the Northwestern University faculty in the chemistry department. Basolo was a highly regarded faculty member and educator, served as chair of the chemistry department from 1969 through 1972 and was named the Charles and Emma Morrison Chair in the department of chemistry in 1980, and ended his career as an Emeritus Professor in 1990. Basolo's teaching inspired many chemists and the large number of great minds that he influenced evidenced his commitment to education. Aside from his excellent teaching record and extensive service to the chemical community, Basolo's impact on chemistry is most tangible in his more than 380 publications. The Fred Basolo papers consist of biographical, correspondence, teaching, and publication files. Correspondence files dating between 1942 and 2006, and publications comprise the majority of the papers.

Arrangement Note

This collection is arranged first by subject, then alphabetically; within each folder the contents are in chronological order. Series include biographical, correspondence, teaching and publications.

Method of Acquisition

The Fred Basolo Papers comprise three accessions. Accession numbers 96-36 and 02-19 were donated to the University Archives by Fred Basolo on February 9, 1996 and February 19, 2002. Accession number 07-55 was donated by Basolo's daughter, Margaret Silkaitis, on May 17, 2007. Materials from the Archives' Faculty Biographical Files were incorporated into the Papers.

Separated Materials

The books which Fred Basolo authored were separated and added to the Archives' Faculty Authors collection; editions in foreign languages were placed in Archives Room 103. Photographs were added to the University Archives' Photograph Collection. Four cubic feet of duplicate or extraneous materials were separated and discarded. An oversized award from the Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela) was added to the Diplomas and Certificates Collection. Three-dimensional awards and plaques were added to the Artifacts Collection. Audio and videocassettes were added to the University Archives' multimedia collection, as documented below.

Awards and Plaques: All Located in University Archives Artifacts Collection
Oesper Award (Cincinnati Section of the American Chemical Society), October 25, 1983
American Chemical Society: 20th anniversary ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry, 1984
North Dakota State University: 11th Broberg Lecturer, 1985
University of South Florida: R.P. Scherer Chemistry Lecturer, 1985
Societa Chimica Italiana: Paolo Chini Lecturer, October 3, 1990
American Chemical Society, Santa Clara Valley Section: Harry and Carol Mosher Award, 1990
American Chemical Society: 20 Years of Service as a member of the ACS Council, August 26, 1998
Utkal University, Vanivihar Bhubaneswar (n.d.)

Audio Cassettes
Fred Basolo Interview (accession #03-171) - AC #1622
Fred Basolo and William Beranek on "Saturday Edition," 9/10/85 (accession # 07-55) ) - AC #1753
Public Radio: Fred Basolo with Host Mark Hilan, ACS Chicago Meeting, 10/85 (accession # 07-55) ) - AC #1754

Video Cassettes
Fred Basolo Interview, October, 1983 (accession #02-19) ) - VC #880-883
Fred Basolo Interview (?), n.d. (accession #02-19) ) - VC #884-891
“Basolo 70,” 1990 (accession # 07-55) ) - VC #1059-1061

Processing Information

Keegan Lannon, Summer 2007

Guide to the Fred Basolo (1920-2007) Papers
Keegan Lannon
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US