SZWARC, MICHAEL (1909–2000), U.S. physical chemist. Born in Bedzin, Poland, Szwarc graduated from the Warsaw Polytechnic in 1932 and then studied and taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1935–42) and Manchester University (1947–52). In 1952 he went to the U.S. as professor of physical and polymer chemistry at the College of Forestry of the State University of New York (Syracuse). In 1964 he was awarded a distinguished professorship by the State University of New York and in 1967 he founded and became the first director of the suny Polymer Research Center. He became professor emeritus in 1980. After his retirement in 1979, he joined the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute at usc.
Szwarc discovered living polymerization, a reaction that allows the resultant polymers to maintain chain-end reactivity even after completion of the reaction. This advance allows the synthesis of polymers with controlled molecular weights, and with functional groups placed at particular positions in the polymer chain. Szwarc also made fundamental contributions to the development of "block polymers," in which two or more different polymer chains are connected to each other through chemical bonds. This has led to the manufacture of a variety of unique polymeric materials, such as thermoplastic elastomers.
Szwarc was elected a fellow of the Royal Society (London) in 1966 and received two awards in polymer chemistry from the American Chemical Society (1969, 1990) as well as the Kyoto Prize for advanced technology in 1991 in recognition of his fundamental contributions to polymer science. He contributed papers to scientific journals, mostly concerning kinetics and mechanisms of organic reactions and polymerizations.
[Samuel Aaron Miller /
Bracha Rager (2nd ed.)]