Monday, February 19, 2007

Top 5 dead chemists

1) Friedrich Wöhler (1800-1882)
Wöhler is the only person in the top 5 list that never received a nobel prize. He died too soon for it. But this is the third time he is number one on a 'top 5 list' (see here and here).

Wöhler did the first total synthesis and proved that organic material could be synthesized from inorganic material. He published this in 1828 (Ueber künstliche Bildung des Harnstoffs; Ann. Phys. Chem. 1828, 88, 253).
'On the artificial formation of urea '

Where he tells us this.

'this study gave the unexpected result that combining cyanic acid with ammonia creates urea'

2) Robert Burns Woodward (1917-1979)

Number one on this list.

3) Maria Skłodowska-Curie (1867-1934)

The only woman that received two Nobel prizes, and ended as number one on this top 5 list. I said something about her here as well. Besides the Nobel prizes she was 'famous' for her affair, after her husband's death, with the married Paul Langevin. This caused a press scandal in 1911.

4) Hermann Emil Fischer (1852-1919)

The founding father of carbohydrate chemistry. His name is connected to a projection, indole- and oxazole synthesis and much more.

5) Linus Carl Pauling (1901-1994)

He was the only person to win two unshared Nobel prizes. Famous for his work on the nature of the chemical bond, crystal and protein structure determination, orthomolecular medicine and much more. He was a member of the emergency committee of atomic scientists founded by Einstein.

Well, the final score was (total 372 votes) :

(My own top 5 would have included Antoine Lavoisier, Marie Curie, Dmitri Mendeleev, Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff and Friedrich Wöhler. I am happy with this result though.)


Chemgeek said...

No argument from me about the elected 5, but I agree that Lavoisier could be in it. Maybe in the "Top five dead chemists who died in really lousy ways" list.

movies said...

I agree with the 5 picked as well, but I always think that Fischer gets slighted in these things. Whenever you see a timeline of organic chemistry you see a couple of landmark syntheses: urea, then a few years later acetic acid, and then out of nowhere Fischer makes glucose which is way more complicated than anything before that. Then after that it's not until 1917 that Robinson makes tropinone and it takes off from there. Just in comparing complexity I think that Fischer deserves some more credit.

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