Born in Thames, New Zealand, December 7 1943, Professor Macdonald gained his BSc and MSc degrees in Chemistry at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the University of Calgary in Canada. He has served as Assistant Research Officer at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Lecturer in Chemistry at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, Senior Research Associate at Alberta Sulfur Research, Honorary Associate Professor at the Chemistry Department of the University of Calgary, Director and Professor of the Fontana Corrosion Center, Ohio State University, Vice President, Physical Sciences Division, SRI International, Menlo Park, California and has been Professor and later Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Pennsylvania State University since 1991. On December 31, 2012, Professor Macdonald retired from Penn State and accepted Emeritus status at the university. He then moved to California become Professor in Residence with a joint appointment between the Departments of Nuclear Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley.
Professor Macdonald has received numerous awards and honors, including the 1991 Carl Wagner Memorial Award from The Electrochemical Society; the 1992 Willis Rodney Whitney Award from The National Association of Corrosion Engineers for “contributions to the science of corrosion”; the W. B. Lewis Memorial Lecture from Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd., for his “contributions to the development of nuclear power in the service of mankind”; the H. H. Uhlig Award from The Electrochemical Society; the U. R. Evans Award from The Institute of Corrosion, UK; the 20th Khwarizmi International Award in fundamental science; and the Wilson Research and Teaching Awards of the Pennsylvania State University. He is an elected fellow of NACE-International; The Electrochemical Society; the Royal Society of Canada; the Royal Society of New Zealand; ASM International; the World Innovation Foundation; the Institute of Corrosion (UK); and the International Society of Electrochemistry. From 1993 to 1997 he was a member of the US Air Force Science Advisory Board with the protocol rank of Lieutenant General. He was awarded the US Air Force Medal for Meritorious Civilian Service in 1997. Dr. Macdonald was a Trustee of ASM International and has recently (2011) been inducted Doctuer Honoris Causa by INSA-Lyon, Lyon, France. He was a recent (2011) recipient of the Lee Hsun Research Award of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. More recently (2012), he received the Faraday Memorial Trust Gold Medal from the Central Electrochemical Research Institute in Karaikudi, India, for his work in electrochemistry and in particular on the phenomenon of passivity and passivity breakdown, and in 2013 he was awarded the Gibbs Award for his ground-breaking work on the properties of aqueous solutions at high temperatures [for example, he is the first and only person to measure the pH of an aqueous solution at supercritical temperatures (T > 374.15 oC), with the measurements being made at temperatures up to 528 oC]. In September 2014, he was awarded the Frumkin Memorial Medal by the International Society of Electrochemistry primarily for his work on passivity.
Dr. Macdonald has published more than 900 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals, books, and conference proceedings, plus four books, one of which ("Transient Techniques in Electrochemistry") established an important area of electrochemical research, and has 11 patents and numerous invention disclosures credited to his name.