April 28, 2003
Public chemistry lecture features Nobel laureate
Herbert C. Brown
By Shawna Williams
Nobel laureate Herbert C. Brown will give the third annual Joseph F.
Bunnett Research Organic Chemistry Lecture at 4 p.m. on Friday, May
2, in the University Center. Brown's talk, entitled "The Discovery
and Exploration of a New Continent of Organic Chemistry," is free
and open to the public.
|Herbert C. Brown shared
the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with German chemist Georg Wittig of
the University of Heidelberg. Photo
courtesy Purdue University
The R. B. Wetherill Research Professor Emeritus of chemistry at Purdue
University, Brown is most famous for his pioneering work with boron
compounds, which revolutionized synthetic organic chemistry.
While working for the Department of Defense during World War II, Brown
found a way to make sodium borohydride. This compound opened a new path
for making hydrogen gas, used in weather balloons during the war and
in fuel cells today. This was the first of many important reactions
made possible by boranes, compounds of boron and hydrogen.
Boranes, which Brown has called "possibly the most useful intermediates
currently available," are now used in the synthesis of many organic
compounds, including medications such as the antidepressant Prozac and
the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor.
In 1979, Brown shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with German chemist
Georg Wittig of the University of Heidelberg. He has received many other
medals, honorary doctorates, and fellowships in recognition of his work.
Brown received his B.S. and Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. He
taught there and at Wayne State University before transferring to Purdue
University, where he has remained since 1947.
Brown's lecture will be followed by a reception with locally produced
food and wine at 5 p.m.
The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry hosts the Bunnett lecture
series, which honors Professor Emeritus Joseph Bunnett. The series is
supported by an endowment fund of private contributions.
Bunnett is famous both for his work in organic chemistry and for his
dedication to the destruction of chemical weapons. He chaired the Committee
on Chemical Weapons Destruction Technologies of the International Union
of Pure and Applied Chemistry, and has served on committees of the National
Research Council, the Department of Defense, and the Organization for
the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. He also cochaired the peer review
committee of the Russian-American Joint Evaluation Program, which assisted
Russia in destroying its chemical munitions.
Bunnett's research interests include kinetics, equilibria, and mechanisms
of organic reactions. He has won a Guggenheim and two Fulbright fellowships,
and has served as a visiting lecturer at universities on five continents.
For more information about the lecture, email
April Barrett, call (831) 459-4002, or visit the web