Monday, July 23, 2007

Top 5 musician chemists

On the Element titled albums-post Ashutosh commented : 'Now is the time to do a Top 5/10 musician chemists'. A top 10 list is out of the question here (top 5 only) and requests are often ignored but this 'Top 5 list' was already on our 'Top 5 lists to do list'. The candidates were already there, so here is the final list.

Top 5 musician chemists

1) Sir Edward William ElgarThe famous English composer was an amateur chemist. In his house in Hereford he had a basement lab where he experimented. Later he moved his lab to his garden shed which he called 'The Ark' (because doves were nesting there). He invented a machine to produce hydrogen sulfide and made explosions by handling phosphoric waste carelessly.

2) Alexander Borodin A Russian chemist and composer. Gave his name to the Hunsdiecker-Borodin reaction and is a codiscoverer of the aldol reaction. He wrote opera, symphonies, chamber music, piano suites and more. He was a member of The Five (or 'The Mighty Handful') a group of Russian composers who met in St Petersburg between 1856-1870. The other members were Mily Balakirev, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

3) Fletcher Henderson

Received a master's degree in chemistry in 1920 but was unable to find a job because of the color of his skin. He decided to earn his money with music and formed a jazz big band in 1922. In 1924 Louis Armstrong joined his band. As a pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer Henderson had a big influence on big band jazz and Swing music.

4) Lejaren Hiller Hiller received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Princeton in 1947. From 1947 to 1952 Hiller worked as a research chemist for DuPont in Waynesboro, Virginia where hedevelopped a method for dyeing acrylic fibers. Hiller studied composition as well. He became a member of the chemistry faculty at the University of Illinois in 1952 but in 1958, he transferred to the music faculty. In 1968 Hiller became a professor of composition at the University of Buffalo. Hiller founded the Experimental Music Studios in Illinois.

Votoček was professor of Experimental Inorganic Chemistry and Organic Chemistry at the Czech technical University. His most important chemical work was in carbohydrate chemistry. He wrote chamber music, orchestral pieces and piano sonatas. Votoček also contributed in the field of linguistics. He spoke 7 languages fluently, wrote dictionaries and did translations.


Jordan said...

Never heard of #4 or #5. Thanks for sharing them.

I think Borodin gets the prize for making significant contributions to both fields (and for being a "name" in each).

Anonymous said...

Charles Brown, who wrote "Merry Christmas Baby" was a BS chemist (I think Prarie View A&M) and worked in a munitions plant during WWII.

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