Richard N. Zare is the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science at Stanford University. He was born on November 19, 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio, and is a graduate of Harvard University, where he received his B.A. degree in chemistry and physics in 1961 and his Ph.D. in chemical physics in 1964. In 1965 he became an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but moved to the University of Colorado in 1966, remaining there until 1969 while holding joint appointments in the departments of chemistry, and physics and astrophysics. In 1969 he was appointed to a full professorship in the chemistry department at Columbia University, becoming the Higgins Professor of Natural Science in 1975. In 1977 he moved to Stanford University. He was named Chair of the Department of Chemistry at Stanford University in 2005. In 2006 he was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Professor.
Professor Zare is renowned for his research in the area of laser chemistry, resulting in a greater understanding of chemical reactions at the molecular level. By experimental and theoretical studies he has made seminal contributions to our knowledge of molecular collision processes and contributed very significantly to solving a variety of problems in chemical analysis. His development of laser induced fluorescence as a method for studying reaction dynamics has been widely adopted in other laboratories.