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William Lester, Jr.

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Information about William Lester, Jr.

Profile image of William Lester, Jr.

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Chemistry Professor
Chemist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Black
Favorite Food:
Red Beans, Rice, Steak, Mexican Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Caribbean, Maui, Barbados
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
4/24/1937
Birth Location:
Chicago, Illinois

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Chemistry Professor
Chemist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Black
Favorite Food:
Red Beans, Rice, Steak, Mexican Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Caribbean, Maui, Barbados
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
4/24/1937
Birth Location:
Chicago
See how William Lester, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Distinguished theoretical chemist William Lester, Jr., was born on April 24, 1937, in Chicago, Illinois, where he attended all-black elementary schools due to racial segregation. After World War II, Lester's family moved and he attended a formerly all-white high school; he went on to receive his B.S. degree in 1958, and his master’s degree in chemistry in 1959 from the University of Chicago. Lester obtained his Ph.D. in chemistry from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1964.

Lester developed his interest in science at an early age; during his senior year in high school, he used his typing skills to obtain a part-time job in the physics department of the University of Chicago, which gave him a chance to explore the potential of a future career in the sciences. Entering the University of Chicago on a history scholarship, Lester set scoring records in basketball, two of which were still standing after forty-eight years. While at Catholic University, Lester worked at the National Bureau of Standards as a member of the scientific staff; his work at the Bureau helped him to meet the requirements for his doctoral dissertation on the calculation of molecular properties. Lester obtained a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he worked on the molecular collision theory. The IBM Corporation then hired Lester to work at its research laboratory in San Jose, California. Later, as the director of the National Resource for Computation in Chemistry, Lester organized and led the first unified effort in computational chemistry in the United States.

Lester later joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley as a professor of chemistry, where his research focused on the theoretical studies of the electronic structure of molecules. Lester's efforts at Berkeley extended the powerful quantum Monte Carlo method to a wider range of chemical problems. In 2002, Lester became the president of the Pac-10 Conference.

Throughout his career, Lester published over 200 papers in his field, and was awarded numerous honors for his research and teaching. Lester held memberships in several professional organizations including the American Physical and Chemical Societies, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was also elected a fellow of the APS, ACS, and AAAS. In addition to his professional activities, Lester remained committed to science education and sparking an interest in pursuing science careers in minority students.

Lester and his wife, Rochelle (deceased), raised two children: son, William A. Lester, III, and daughter, Allison L. Ramsey.

See how William Lester, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William Lester's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Lester shares his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Lester talks about his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Lester discusses his father's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William Lester shares his parents' stories of their childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William Lester talks about his grandparents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about his extended family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William Lester talks about his sisters and their families
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William Lester describes his childhood homelife
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - William Lester describes Chicago in the 1940s
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - William Lester talks about his elementary school experiences in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Lester describes his family's history in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Lester talks about his high school experiences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Lester talks about his primary school teachers
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Lester discusses his interests as a youth
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Lester talks about working at the post office while studying at the University of Chicago
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Lester describes the curriculum at the University of Chicago
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about his starring college basketball career at the University of Chicago, part 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - William Lester describes earning his M.S. degree from the University of Chicago
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - William Lester talks about his starring college basketball career at the University of Chicago, part 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Lester talks about his master's studies at the University of Chicago
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Lester describes his graduate school experience at Washington University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Lester describes his move to Washington, D.C. to attend The Catholic University of America
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Lester describes his work at the National Bureau of Standards
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Lester describes his courses at The Catholic University of America
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William Lester describes correlated molecular orbital theory
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - William Lester discusses his work ethic
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - William Lester talks about his options for postdoctoral fellowships
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - William Lester reflects on the Civil Rights Movement in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - William Lester talks about the work environment of the University of Wisconsin--Madison
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - William Lester discusses affirmative action
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Lester describes his photographs
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William Lester talks about his decision to work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William Lester describes the close-coupling problem
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William Lester discusses the work environment at the University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - William Lester recalls his move to California
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - William Lester recalls living in Madison, Wisconsin
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - William Lester describes the benefits of working at IBM
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - William Lester describes San Jose, California
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - William Lester describes his career at IBM
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - William Lester recalls serving as director of the National Resource for Computation in Chemistry
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - William Lester discusses building the NRCC program
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - William Lester recalls the end of the NRCC and the beginning of his career at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - William Lester discusses the Quantum Monte Carlo method, part 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - William Lester discusses the Quantum Monte Carlo method, part 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - William Lester describes his work environment at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - William Lester talks about the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers [NOBCChE]
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - William Lester discusses his role as athletics representative for the PAC 10
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - William Lester talks about his STEM professional affiliations
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about his travels
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - William Lester discusses the role of his research in spectroscopy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - William Lester discusses the role of his research in understanding photosynthesis
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - William Lester talks about computer programming in computational chemistry
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - William Lester shares his hobbies and other interests
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - William Lester talks about his wife, Rochelle Lester
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - William Lester discusses the success of his son, William A. Lester III
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about his daughter, Alison Ramsey
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - William Lester talks about his cousin, William A.J. Ross
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - William Lester provides a brief summary of his family history
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - William Lester talks about seeking equal representation for African Americans in science
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - William Lester talks about his organizational affiliations
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - William Lester shares his goals for his future
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - William Lester discusses enjoying his career as a scientist
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - William Lester talks about education in the African American community
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about how he wants to be remembered
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - William Lester talks about generating random numbers in the Monte Carlo Method
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Slating of William Lester's interview
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - William Lester describes the history of the development of the quantum Monte Carlo method
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - William Lester describes his experience with the quantum Monte Carlo method
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - William Lester describes his transition into using the quantum Monte technique and his current work
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - William Lester describes his work with graphene
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - William Lester talks about his life after retirement and his health
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about being featured in the 2004 Allstate calendar
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - William Lester talks about playing basketball
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - William Lester describes his decision to attend the University of Chicago and his basketball career there
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - William Lester describes the accomplished physicists he was exposed to at the University of Chicago
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - William Lester describes what influenced his decision to attend Washington University in St. Louis
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - William Lester describes balancing family life with graduate school
  • Tape: 10 Story: 6 - William Lester talks about the African American scientists who trained at Catholic University
  • Tape: 10 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about fellow basketball players at the University of Chicago
  • Tape: 10 Story: 8 - William Lester describes receiving the INCITE Award in 2004
  • Tape: 10 Story: 9 - William Lester describes his visits to Europe for work
  • Tape: 11 Story: 1 - William Lester describes his awards and honors
  • Tape: 11 Story: 2 - William Lester talks about NOBCChE and Isiah Warner
  • Tape: 11 Story: 3 - William Lester talks about his seventieth birthday celebration at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Tape: 11 Story: 4 - William Lester talks about receiving the Stanley C. Israel Award and reflects upon his career in chemistry
  • Tape: 11 Story: 5 - William Lester reflects upon his legacy and talks about current politics
  • Tape: 11 Story: 6 - William Lester describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community today
  • Tape: 11 Story: 7 - William Lester describes his involvement with The HistoryMakers' ScienceMakers Program
  • Tape: 11 Story: 8 - William Lester talks about how he would like to be remembered