The book of the title has recently appeared giving a rich and detailed view over 417 pages, four appendices and 24 pages of photographs of how a university chemistry department in the UK came into being in 1845 and its subsequent history of discoveries, Nobel prizes and much more. If you have ever wondered what goes on in an academic department, populated by and large by very bright and clever personalities and occasionally some highly eccentric ones, then go dip into this book.
Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category
The phenomenon of bond stretch isomerism, two isomers of a compound differing predominantly in just one bond length, is one of those chemical concepts that wax and occasionally wane. Here I explore such isomerism for the elements Ge, Sn and Pb.
- J.A. Labinger, "Bond-stretch isomerism: a case study of a quiet controversy", Comptes Rendus Chimie, vol. 5, pp. 235-244, 2002. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1631-0748(02)01380-2
I’ve started so I’ll finish. Mechanism and kinetic isotope effects for protiodecarboxylation of indoles.Saturday, January 2nd, 2016
Another mechanistic study we started in 1972 is here 40+ years on subjected to quantum mechanical scrutiny.
- B.C. Challis, and H.S. Rzepa, "Heteroaromatic hydrogen exchange reactions. Part 9. Acid catalysed decarboxylation of indole-3-carboxylic acids", Journal of the Chemical Society, Perkin Transactions 2, pp. 281, 1977. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/P29770000281
The BBC TV quiz series Mastermind was first broadcast in the UK in 1972, the same time I was starting to investigate the mechanism of diazocoupling to substituted indoles as part of my Ph.D. researches. The BBC program became known for the catch phrase I've started so I'll finish; here I will try to follow this precept with the project I started then. In 1972, one measured the rates of chemical reactions to gain insights into the transition state kinetic model. To obtain more data, we used isotopes such as 2H or 3H, together with substituents such as R-t-butyl to modify the potential energy surfaces of the reactions by inducing steric effects., We found that the kinetics for this reaction were actually complex‡ (in part because of pH dependence) involving a Wheland intermediate (the formation of which is shown with red curly arrows above) followed by the collapse of this intermediate to the diazo-coupled product (blue arrows). Coupling to 2-methyl indole (R=X=H, R'=Me), 2-t-butyl indole (R=H, R'=t-butyl) and 4-methyl-2-t-butyl indole (R=Me, R'=t-butyl) revealed that the kinetic isotope effects induced by replacing H by D or T were "not apparent" (i.e. close to 1), the inference being that the rate constant k1 for those systems was slower than k2; the formation of the Wheland intermediate was rate determining (the rds) for the reaction. But with 2-methyl-4,6-di-t-butyl indole (R=t-butyl, R'=Me) this changed and a deuterium isotope effect of ~7 was observed. The rate determining proton removal from the Wheland intermediate k2 was now slower than k1. With 2,4,6-tri-t-butyl indole, we ended by noting that the reaction become almost too slow to observe and furthermore was accompanied by loss of a t-butyl cation as well as a proton. At this point we attempted to infer some transition state models consistent with these observations. Note that we had relatively little data with which to derive our 3D models (one needs to define a geometry using 3N-6 variables, along with its relative energy and force constants). The text and diagram of our attempt is shown below. The main points of this argument were;
- B.C. Challis, and H.S. Rzepa, "The mechanism of diazo-coupling to indoles and the effect of steric hindrance on the rate-limiting step", Journal of the Chemical Society, Perkin Transactions 2, pp. 1209, 1975. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/P29750001209
- Rzepa, Henry S.., "Hydrogen transfer reactions of Indoles", 1974. http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.18777
In Jingdezhen an Imperial Kiln was built in 1369 to produce porcelain that was “white as jade, thin as paper, bright as a mirror and tuneful as a bell”. It’s the colours of the glazes that caught my eye, achieved by a combination of oxidative and reductive firing in the kiln, coupled with exquisite control of the temperature.
This post is prompted by the appearance of a retrospective special issue of C&E news, with what appears to be its very own Website: internet.cenmag.org. It contains articles and interviews with many interesting people, along with several variations on the historical (albeit rather USA-centric) perspectives and a time-line covers many of the key innovations (again, from a USA-perspective). Some subjects are covered in greater depth, including computational chemistry. The periodic table too gets coverage, but surprisingly that is not of Mark Winter’s WebElements, which carries the impressive 1993-2015 continuous timeline (hence 22 in the title!).