1994 – Herbert C. Brown

Discovering and Exploring a New Continent of Chemistry

Fifty years ago, diborane was a chemical rarity, available only in two laboratories in the world. The requirements of research during World War II led to the discovery of practical synthetic methods for diborane and to the discovery of sodium borohydride. These turned out to be excellent reducing agents in organic chemistry. Exploration of these reducing characteristics led to the discovery of hydroboration. Hydroboration made organoboranes readily available. These organoboranes have proven to be the most versatile intermediates now available for organic synthesis. Recently this program has provided the first general synthesis of pure enantiomers. It is a rare experience to carryon a continuous research program for fifty years. This program has led not only to major industrial developments and to the Nobel Price, but to insights into the methods for productive research.