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Brown, Herbert Charles

organic compounds synthesis prize

(1912– ) US chemist: introduced organoboranes for organic synthesis.

Brown was born in London, but his family emigrated to Chicago in 1914. He obtained a university education with difficulty, but his talent secured a professorship at Purdue in 1947 which he held until retirement in 1978. His researches included studies on carbocations and on steric effects, and especially on boron compounds. He was co-discoverer of sodium borohydride (NaBH4 ) and pioneered its use for the reduction of organic compounds; and he found a simple way of making diborane (B2H6 ) and discovered its addition to unsaturated organic molecules to form organoboranes. The latter are of great value in organic syntheses, the sequence of reactions being known as hydroboration. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1979.

He shared the Prize with Georg Wittig (1897–1987), also a contributor of a general method useful in organic synthesis: working in Tubingen and Heidelberg, he showed that compounds called phosphorus ylides will replace oxygen in a carbonyl group (C=O) to give the group C=CH2 . This ‘Wittig reaction’ has been used in syntheses of the vitamins A and D, and of the prostaglandins.

Brown, Howard and Stewart, Karen - Founders of Stewart + Brown, Career, Sidelights [next] [back] Brown, Henry “Box”(1815–?) - Abolitionist, house servant, factory worker, Chronology, Ships Himself to Philadelphia, Becomes an Abolitionist Lecturer

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