Richard H. Holm was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He spent his early years on Nantucket Island and in Falmouth, Massachusetts where he received his secondary school education. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (B.S., 1955) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Ph.D. in chemistry, 1959). His graduate advisor was Professor F. A. Cotton. He has served on the faculties of the University of Wisconsin, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University. Since 1980, he has been at Harvard University, where he has been Chair of the Department of Chemistry and, from 1983, Higgins Professor of Chemistry. As of 2006, he is Higgins Research Professor of Chemistry.
His research interests are centered in inorganic and bioinorganic chemistry, with particular reference to the synthesis and properties of molecules whose structures and reactivity are pertinent to biological processes. He has published ca. 500 research papers in various areas in inorganic chemistry, including static and dynamic stereochemistry, structural equilibria, NMR of paramagnetic molecules, the electron transfer concept, metal dithiolenes, synthetic metal-sulfur chemistry, reduced hemes, metal chalcogenides and molecular cluster excision, iron-sulfur and heterometal-iron-sulfur clusters, and the biologically related chemistry of vanadium, molybdenum, tungsten, iron, and nickel.
He has held over 90 named lectureships and plenary lectures in the U. S. and abroad, including the Frontiers in Chemistry Lectures (Texas A&M University, Case Western Reserve University), the A. D. Little Lectures (MIT), the Muetterties Lecture (Berkeley), the Basolo Lecture (Northwestern), the Taube Lecture (Stanford), the Baker Lectures (Cornell), and the Centenary and Joseph Chatt Lectures (U. K.). He has been a member of numerous editorial boar ds, visiting committees, and advisory panels. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the U. S. National Academy of Sciences, holds several D.Sc.(hon.) degrees, and is the recipient of a number of national and international research awards in the field of inorganic chemistry. Among these are American Chemical Society awards in inorganic and bioinorganic chemistry, the Bailar Medal, the F. P. Dwyer Medal, the Pauling Medal (Stanford University), the Harrison Howe Award, the Polyhedron (Wilkinson) Prize, the Centenary Metal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Chatt Medal, the Richards Medal, and the National Academy of Sciences Award in the Chemical Sciences.