Tuesday, December 4, 2007

...starting at center...E.J. Corey....

Yesterday I got an email from the folks at Wiley Scientific. They wanted me to know that the current issue of Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences was available free of charge. The complimentary online access is in honor of Professor William Higuchi. I first thought to myself, "who the hell is William Higuchi." After further thought I realized, if a publication such as this is going to make such a fuss over someone, that someone is probably very important in that field. Perhaps I am a bit naive when it comes to the big players in the world of pharmaceutics. Well, to be honest, I should drop the "perhaps" in that last sentence.

I found myself in the same situation I find my students in. Most of my students (at least early on) have never heard of E.J. Corey, Woodward, Sharpless, Trost, Grubbs, etc... I had never heard of Higuchi but upon reading the article in the JPS and on his website, I realized he is quite the deal in pharmaceutics.

I'm much more familiar with organic chemists. A few years ago, as a way of putting the players in this field in perspective for my students, I started using sports analogies. This worked for 80% of my students. The other 20% were annoyed that once again I had boiled something down to sports [1].

I'll stick with the NBA since most of the players are fairly recognizable.
E.J. Corey is the Larry Bird of Chemistry
Grubbs is the Kobe Bryant of Chemistry
Sharpless is the Magic Johnson of Chemistry
Hoffmann is the Scottie Pippen of Chemistry
Nicolaou is the Karl Malone of Chemistry

These are fairly big names and they correspond to big names in the NBA. Frankly, the names get swapped around all of the time, but the point is made that if Chemistry was a spectator sport, we would know all of these names.

So, who are your superstar chemists and what sports figure are they analogous to? Who is the Michael Jordan of Chemistry? Better yet, who is the Luke Walton, Stephan Marbury, Vlade Divacs etc... of Chemistry?

[1] For me, most of my analogies involve sports or kindergarteners, but the kindergartener thing is another post.


Russ said...

Emil Fischer is the James Naismith of Organic Chemistry.

Chemgeek said...


I tried to stay away from the old school guys. There's just too many.