Henry Taube was born at Neudorf on November 30, 1915. He was the youngest of four brothers born to German farming immigrants who had come to Saskatchewan from the Ukraine in 1911. At the age of 13, Taube attended Luther College in Regina. After completing grade twelve, he remained at Luther College as a laboratory assistant thanks to his chemistry teacher, Paul Liefeld, and was able to take first-year university classes. His appreciation of Liefeld was expressed in 2004 in the form of a substantial donation to Luther College.
Henry Taube attended the University of Saskatchewan, successfully completing a BSc in chemistry in 1935 and an MSc in 1937. In 1940 he received a PhD from the University of California (Berkeley). Since positions at Canadian universities were scarce he remained at Berkeley as an instructor, becoming a US citizen in 1942. He also taught and conducted research at: Cornell University (1941–46); the University of Chicago (1946–62), where he was Chair of the Department of Chemistry from 1956 to 1959; and Stanford University (1962– 86), where he was Chair of the Department of Chemistry from 1972 to 1974 and from 1978 to 1979. He became a Professor Emeritus in 1986. Taube married Mary Alice Wesche in 1952; they had two daughters and two sons.
Universally recognized as the founder of the modern study of inorganic mechanisms, Taube was the author of more than 300 scientific papers and articles on such subjects as the electronic mechanisms involved in the composition and reactivity of inorganic coordination compounds. He developed new techniques to study aspects of chemical reactivity. He was the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science in 1977, and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1983 for his work on the mechanism of an electron transfer reaction. He also received a Doctor of Laws degree in 1973 from the University of Saskatchewan.
Henry Taube died in his home in Palo Alto, California on November 16, 2005.
Allan E. Smith