Henry Armstrong studied at the Royal College of Chemistry from 1865-7 and spent his subsequent career as an organic chemist at the Central College of the Imperial college of Science and technology until he retired in 1912. He spent the rest of his long life railing against the state of modern chemistry, saving much of his vitriol against (inter alia) the absurdity of ions, electronic theory in chemistry, quantum mechanics and nuclear bombardment in physics. He snarled at Robinson’s and Ingold’s new invention (ca 1926-1930) of electronic arrow pushing with the put down “bent arrows never hit their marks“.1 He was dismissed as an “old fogy, stuck in a time warp about 1894.”1 So why on earth would I want to write about him? Read on…
Posts Tagged ‘United States’
In 1986 or so, molecular modelling came of age. Richard Counts, who ran an organisation called QCPE (here I had already submitted several of the program codes I had worked on) had a few years before contacted me to ask for my help with his Roadshow. He had started these in the USA as a means of promoting QCPE, which was the then main repository of chemistry codes, and as a means of showing people how to use the codes. My task was to organise a speakers list, the venue being in Oxford in a delightful house owned by the university computing services. Access to VAX computers was provided, via VT100 terminals. Amazingly, these terminals could do very primitive molecular graphics (using delightfully named escape codes, which I learnt to manipulate).
The bimolecular nucleophilic substitution reaction at saturated carbon is an icon of organic chemistry, and is better known by its mechanistic label, SN2. It is normally a slow reaction, with half lives often measured in hours. This implies a significant barrier to reaction (~15-20 kcal/mol) for the transition state, shown below (X is normally both a good nucleophile and a good nucleofuge/leaving group, such as halide, cyanide, etc. Y can have a wide variety of forms).