Thank you, Bob Grubbs

Nick Slavin
2 min readJan 26, 2022


Photo of Robert Grubbs by The Royal Society via Wikimedia Commons

Robert Grubbs passed away on December 19, 2021.

Bob was known for his humanity and kindness, and for his enormous impact on the field of chemistry.

It’s hard to imagine modern chemical synthesis design without Bob’s many contributions, some of which have become fundamental tools of chemical manufacturing across industries.

His best known work was in metathesis, whereby catalysts make and break carbon-carbon double bonds of organic molecules and different groups of atoms change places.

Bob’s 2005 Nobel Prize diploma, pictured here, includes a personalized artwork inspired by the metathesis chemistry he developed. Brightly-colored, interlocking pairs of dancers appear to be in motion, switching partners.

His chemistry has been used to create petrochemicals, agrochemicals, cosmetic ingredients, wind turbine blades, advanced polymers for cars and camera lenses, and medicines for hepatitis C and cancer that have saved lives.

The first substantive discussion about what would become Fuzionaire took place in May 2015 in the Gates Annex library at Caltech. It’s the same spot where this short Caltech video on Bob was filmed, and it happened at about the same time. On the couch and armchairs there, our founding team spent a Sunday afternoon stack-ranking potential applications of the new catalyst platform that had been recently discovered in Bob’s lab.

Photo of Gates Annex library at Caltech via Wikimedia Commons

The discovery was of an unexpected, sustainable way to make new molecules using Earth-abundant metal catalysts. It was presented in a 2015 Nature paper and has been cited hundreds of times, including by Nobel laureates and leading groups. The possibilities it presents are seemingly boundless and in applications as diverse as precision cancer theranostics, advanced materials, and fuel refining.

Through discoveries made by Bob and his research team and through the hundreds of people he trained, encouraged, and mentored, the positive ripple effects of his life have been far-reaching.

These ripple effects extend to the Fuzionaire team and the work we are doing now, born out of discoveries in Bob’s laboratory, and which would not exist without him.

Thank you, Bob.