2011 Herman Skolnik Award Announced


Professor Dr. Alexander (Sandy) Lawson is the recipient of the 2011 Herman Skolnik Award presented by the ACS Division of Chemical Information (CINF).

The award recognizes outstanding contributions to and achievements in the theory and practice of chemical information science and related disciplines. The prize consists of a $3,000 honorarium and a plaque. The winner will also be invited to present an award symposium at the Fall 2011 ACS Meeting.

Sandy Lawson is recognized as a pioneer and far-sighted visionary in the fields of chemical structure handling, database searching, chemical nomenclature, reading machines, and linking text and structural information. He has made numerous innovative contributions, often struggling with the limitations of nascent technology, to develop early prototypes to validate concepts, which sometimes only bore fruit when the technology caught up with his ideas. Sandy has spent a large part of his career associated with "Beilstein", initially working with the Beilstein Handbook. As early aids to searching in Beilstein, he developed the Lawson Number and the SANDRA program. He was instrumental in the creation and development of the electronic Beilstein Database, including both the organization, data structure, and indexing, and also the development of the powerful CrossFire search engine and interface, capable of handling millions of molecules, reactions, and properties.

Sandy has a deep and abiding interest in chemical nomenclature and has been active on IUPAC Committees for Publications, Databases, and Structural Representation, including Division VIII Chemical Nomenclature of Organic Structures. His expertise led him and his team to develop the first commercial program for generating systematic names from structures, AUTONOM, and then its counterpart, to generate structures from names. More recently Sandy has been involved in the consolidation of Beilstein, Gmelin, and the Patent Chemistry Database into a unified database with a modern and chemist-friendly interface, Reaxys. In his current role within Reed Elsevier, and in earlier organizations, he pioneered building bridges between the structured world of molecules and reactions in databases and the looser but nonetheless related realm of text in journals, and the early DYMOND Linking project presaged later developments such as Project Prospect from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Sandy Lawson received a B.Sc. from the University of St. Andrews, and a Ph.D. and D.I.C. from the University of London. He did post-graduate work at the Universities of Kent and Mainz, and was an extramural professor at the latter. He has been awarded the Irvine Medal (1966), Forrester Prize (1966), Gold Medal (1985, for Sandra), EuroCase IT Prizewinner (1997, for CrossFire), and the CSA Trust Mike Lynch Award (2008). He has continued to pursue his love of cheminformatics research and development through a series of organizations, including the Beilstein Institute, Beilstein Informationssysteme GmbH, MDL Information Systems GmbH, Elsevier Information Systems GmbH, and latterly Elsevier Properties SA in Neuchâtel.

Sandy Lawson is among the handful of truly excellent cheminformatics scientists at work today, and is widely and thoroughly respected. He is a gentleman's scientist with a tremendous understanding of chemistry and computers. He embodies the best qualities of cheminformatics and is truly worthy of this award.

Phil McHale, Chair, CINF Awards Committee