A James Franck Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry at the University of Chicago, R. Stephen Berry has worked on a variety of subjects ranging from strictly scientific matters to the analysis of energy use and resource policy. His scientific research has been partly theoretical in areas of finite-time thermodynamics, atomic collisions, atomic and molecular clusters and chaos and has been partly experimental involving studies of chemical reactions and laser-matter interactions. Some of his work outside traditional science has involved the interweaving of thermodynamics with economics and resource policy.
He was born in 1931 and raised in Denver, Colorado. He attended Harvard where he received his A.B., A.M., and Ph.D. in 1952, 1954, and 1956, respectively. In 1955 he married Carla Friedman; they have two grown daughters, one son, two grandsons, and two granddaughters.
He remained at Harvard for 18 months as an Instructor after he received his doctorate. From there, he went to the University of Michigan as Instructor from 1957 to 1960, then to Yale as an Assistant Professor from 1960 until 1964, then to the University of Chicago. He is now the James Franck Distinguished Service Professor and holds appointments in the College, the James Franck Institute, and the Department of Chemistry; he has also held an appointment in the School of Public Policy Studies at the University. He has been a visiting Professor at the University of Copenhagen (1967 and 1979), the Université de Paris-Sud (1979-80), and Oxford (1973-74 and 1980) and was the Newton-Abraham Professor there in 1986-87. He spent 1994 at the Freie Universität Berlin as a Humboldtpreisträger. He has continued to have close associations with Colorado, with the Aspen Center for Physics (on its Board of Directors, 1978-84), and with the Telluride Summer Research Center (Board of Directors, 1984-present; President, 1989-93). In 1983 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.
His current interests include the dynamics of atomic and molecular clusters, the thermodynamics of time-constrained processes and the efficient use of energy, and a variety of issues concerning science and public policy, including precollegiate education and scientific literacy, the maintenance of scientific enterprises in America and elsewhere, and the impact of electronic communication on the sciences and the conduct of scholarly work in general. He is co-author of Tosca, The Total Social Costs of Coal and Nuclear Power (with Linda Gaines and Thomas V. Long), and of Physical Chemistry (with Stuart A. Rice and John Ross) and is the author of “Understanding Energy: Energy, Entropy, and Thermodynamics for Everyman.”
He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Chairman of the Midwest Center and Vice-President, 1986-89; Vice-President, 1994-present), and is a Foreign Member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences.