Richard James Saykally was born in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. He earned degrees from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire (1970) and Madison(1977). He did postdoctoral work at NIST-Boulder from 1977-1979. He has been a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, since 1979.
A co-author of over 400 publications that have been cited over 45,000 times, the recipient of over 70 honors and awards from 12 different countries, Saykally is a Fellow of OSA, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received the E.O. Lawrence Award in Chemistry from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Hinshelwood Lectureship from Oxford University, the Inaugural International Solvay Chair in Chemistry from the Solvay Institutes of Belgium, the Peter DeBye Award in Physical Chemistry from the ACS, the J.C. Bose Lectureship from IACS-Kolkata, and the Faraday Lectureship Prize from the UK Royal Society of Chemistry. He has also received the Ellis R. Lippincott Award from OSA. He is a UC-Berkeley Distinguished Teacher and has been active at the national level in science education. Over 150 students and postdocs have trained under his direction, many of whom hold prominent positions in academic, government, and industrial institutions.