Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Top 5 Princes of Serendip

Top 5 Princes of serendip

1) Friedrich Wöhler

Trying to synthesize ammonium cyanate Wöhler made urea, proving that organic material could be synthesized from inorganic substances. Published in 1828 (Ueber künstliche Bildung des Harnstoffs; Ann. Phys. Chem. 1828, 88, 253)

2) Sir Alexander Fleming

Discovered penicillin while clearing his messy workspace. Too lazy to clean Petri dishes before going on vacation, he had the luck too look at the contaminated dishes when he got back and discovered a bacteria killing mold that had grown on the dish.

His official account of what happened is different.

Fleming A. (1929). "On the antibacterial action of cultures of a penicillium, with special reference to their use in the isolation of B. influenzæ.". Br J Exp Pathol, 1929, 10, 226

3) Albert Hofmann

Synthesized LSD in 1938 and discovered the psychedelic properties after accidental dermal absorption in 1943.

4) Sir William Perkin

The failed synthesis of quinine in 1856 produced a black tar. While clearing the glassware with ethanol he discovered that the tar contained a purple dye. Optimisation of his failed synthesis lead to a method to produce the first aniline dye mauve. He filed a patent (unable to retrieve this one) that same year (Perkin was 18 years old!) and became a wealthy man.

5) Michał Sędziwój

Discovered in the late 16th century that air contained a life-giving gas, and that this gas could be obtained by heating potassium nitrate. It would take almost two centuries untill Joseph Priestley and Carl Wilhelm Scheele found out oxygen was an element.


Jalfrezi said...

Joseph Priestley went to my school :)

How about Sternbach at Roche and the discovery of the benzodiazopine tranquilizers?

een of andere vent said...

Sternbach was just not included in my not completely objective stinking rankin' (like Excimer said).


There are so many, just had to make a choice. Sternbach is a very nice candidate indeed I must say. (Sternbach is dead, that makes him even better for one of my top 5 rankings.)

Ψ*Ψ said...

Hofmann's story is my favorite ;)