Bob Silbey solved chemical problems using physical laws: why reactions occur, why molecules have the spectrum they have, always trying to understand molecular interactions at the most basic level. For most of his career, he worked on problems of electronic energy transport in solids, phonon coupling and scattering in polymers. In later years, he was, as he described it, trying to "understand the initial steps of photosynthesis where light is absorbed, energy is transferred, electrons and holes are separated, and chemical reactions begin. All in a pico second. A very short time. Quantum mechanics has a very nice story that you can tell about photosynthesis, and perhaps, solar energy."
"It's been my passion," he said, "wanting to understand how quantum mechanics works in all its glory."
Bob was a charismatic teacher and talented Dean. Colleagues have referred to him as the heart of MIT. A thoroughly unpretentious, yet singular human being, he had no patience for pomposity or self-aggrandizement. Thus, he would not like nor approve that we have made this web site in his memory. But he was also a devoted father and grandfather who would and always did anything he could for his children. We are therefore confident that he would understand that this is for them.
We hope his children and grandchildren – biological and academic – recognize Bob and themselves in these pages. If you wish to add or amend the contents, please do write to us with your suggestions.