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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« The Overselling of Ionic Liquids | Main | Product Inhibition, Or Grinding To A Halt »

June 12, 2013

Influential Chemists, Anyone?

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Posted by Derek

ChemBark has an interesting question here: who's the most respected and influential chemist, among chemists? He was taking nominations on Twitter, and has settled on Roald Hoffman as his choice. Other strong contenders included Nocera, Corey, Whitesides, Sharpless, Kroto, Grubbs, Gray, Hershbach, Zare, and Stoddart. Anyone over here have names to add to the list? Note again that we're talking influence and fame inside the field, because if you go to "among the general public", you pretty much cut everyone out right there, unfortunately. . .

Comments (70) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Chemical News


1. Jose on June 12, 2013 7:31 AM writes...

Everyone sure as hell should thank Carl Djerassi!!

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2. Justin on June 12, 2013 8:03 AM writes...

I'm not sure the question to be "an interesting question".

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3. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 8:32 AM writes...

Albert Hofmann? Alexander Shulgin?

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4. matt on June 12, 2013 8:45 AM writes...

Krzysztof Matyjaszewski

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5. K C Nicolau on June 12, 2013 8:48 AM writes...

K C Nicolau

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6. Dan on June 12, 2013 8:49 AM writes...

Abby Doyle

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7. Puff the Mutant Dragon on June 12, 2013 9:26 AM writes...

I second Alexander Shulgin (that's Sasha to you)

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8. Don on June 12, 2013 9:34 AM writes...

KC Nicolaou

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9. anon the II on June 12, 2013 9:47 AM writes...

No question:

Clark Still

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10. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 10:07 AM writes...

p andrew evans

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11. Former Princeton Postdoc on June 12, 2013 10:17 AM writes...

Abby Doyle. no Doubt.

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12. NU chemist on June 12, 2013 10:32 AM writes...

just gave my PhD qualifying exam with Stoddart on my committee! it was a real pleasure, great scientist and great guy too

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13. jibjabjobber on June 12, 2013 10:33 AM writes...

The folks who came up with the 'blogsyn' concept, lasting all of three months it did...

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14. anon on June 12, 2013 10:55 AM writes...

I knew it was a witch hunt. it is easy to throw stones at others (particularly, when one is a hack in chemical synthesis).

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15. anaon2 on June 12, 2013 10:57 AM writes...

blog-syn and cro were out to sully the hard earned reputation of others.

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16. bad wolf on June 12, 2013 11:08 AM writes...

The only thing that proves is that daily blogging is not as easy as it looks. (Thanks again Derek!)

If it was a witch hunt maybe you should add Dr. Frontier's Not Voodoo to the suspect list, since that has a "may require mojo" (not reproducible) page as well. Must be a conspiracy that people can't get reported reactions to work! Everyone knows the literature is perfect.

Or, maybe we could use the internet to show hot to make the results reported... like blogsyn.

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17. JRnonchemist on June 12, 2013 11:08 AM writes...

If outside chemistry is included, how about Edward Elmer Smith, who founded the genre of Space Opera?

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18. Hap on June 12, 2013 11:14 AM writes...

@anaon2: Yes, publishing lots of not-reproducible research to get an undeserved reputation is hard work.

Perhaps we shouldn't be so hard on Curi or Zhang - it's hard work rearranging all those gels with Photoshop. We should perhaps even appreciate cut-and-paste jobs in journals and elsewhere - those masters of the CTRL key are geniuses, and only now can we fully understand their art and gifts. Bravo!

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19. a. nonymaus on June 12, 2013 11:41 AM writes...

All y'all that use NMR (especially 13C or 15N), give some respect to the longest-working man in chemistry: John Roberts.

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20. cynical1 on June 12, 2013 11:46 AM writes...

Well, when it comes right down to it, probably Alfred Bader influenced more of us than any of us would like to admit. How many of you would have bothered going into organic/medicinal chemistry if you had to make all of those nasty reagents that you use(d) every day? And, once upon a time, Aldrich was really the only game in town. Of course, I'm dating myself.

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21. Jeb Bush on June 12, 2013 11:56 AM writes...

The consummate professional Barry Trost

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22. Cato the Elder on June 12, 2013 12:18 PM writes...

Derek Barton.

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23. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 12:24 PM writes...

Walter White

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24. patentgeek on June 12, 2013 12:39 PM writes...

Posthumous honorable mention: Augustus Stanely Owsley.

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25. RB Woodweird on June 12, 2013 12:54 PM writes...

Hell, I've been dead for three decades and I'm still the best chemist on this planet.

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26. Sam Weller on June 12, 2013 1:01 PM writes...

Angela Merkel

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27. Cytirps on June 12, 2013 1:21 PM writes...

If one looks at science, mentorship and educating young chemists, Gilbert Stork should be in the top 5. Although he has not been in the limelight for a while, he is definitely a living icon.

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28. CMCguy on June 12, 2013 1:42 PM writes...

Abby Sciuto from NCIS would be my answer for the general public persepctive

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29. JC on June 12, 2013 2:20 PM writes...

Dave Nichols

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30. Canageek on June 12, 2013 2:43 PM writes...

No love for Richard R. Schrock?

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31. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 2:56 PM writes...

Heeger and/or Kohn...

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32. JRnonchemist on June 12, 2013 3:09 PM writes...

How about Margaret Thatcher?

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33. newnickname on June 12, 2013 3:11 PM writes...

@26, Angela Merkel: If you're going there, better include Margaret Thatcher.

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34. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 3:32 PM writes...

@23 Yeah, Mr. White gets my vote.

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35. Jz on June 12, 2013 3:50 PM writes...

My vote goes to James J. La Clair of Hexacyclinol fame.

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36. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 3:58 PM writes...

who cares

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37. McChemist on June 12, 2013 4:19 PM writes...

26, 32/33:

Hey, if we want to go down that road, let's go with Pope Francis.

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38. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 5:17 PM writes...

Linus Pauling

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39. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 5:19 PM writes...

@10 only one person in the world would think that. Hope you're doing well Andy.

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40. Anders Poulsen on June 12, 2013 7:21 PM writes...

To any liberitan or conservative late Iron Lady must be on top of the list.

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41. ed on June 12, 2013 7:38 PM writes...

As somebody outside the field, I'd probably say Harold Urey.

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42. TX raven on June 12, 2013 7:42 PM writes...

Derek Barton.
John Topliss.

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43. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 8:12 PM writes...

Derek Lowe.

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44. samadamsthedog on June 12, 2013 9:39 PM writes...

The Chembark article specifies *living* chemists. Or else, who could resist Lavoisier? (Well, apparently everyone else posting to this thread.)

@9, Thanks for nominating Clark. :-)

Some of the Chembark nominees are laughable. Which those are will be left as an exercise for the reader.

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45. Mr Gladstone on June 12, 2013 9:45 PM writes...

The Pope

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46. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 10:13 PM writes...

Not an interesting question at well...
No clear cut answer either.

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47. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 10:17 PM writes...

@ Mr Gladstone, The Pope

Great pick!

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48. Anonymous on June 12, 2013 10:45 PM writes...

Frances Arnold

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49. Jeff of the North on June 13, 2013 7:48 AM writes...

Knute Rockne

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50. The Iron Chemist on June 13, 2013 7:53 AM writes...

The Joker

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51. Nigel on June 13, 2013 10:08 AM writes...

Harry Kroto.
(I qualify as "among the general public", & influential or not, he's the only one whose name I recognise without resort to Wikipedia.)

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52. anon 8 on June 13, 2013 11:15 AM writes...

It has to be Dr. Arthur Patchett, period. This guy was instrumental in discovering Zocor and Enalapril for Merck who got enriched for two decades plus (a cumulative total of grater than 50 billion dollars). He also enriched many (deserved or undeserved) along the way. Truly, a giant!

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53. Sin Nombre on June 13, 2013 1:18 PM writes...

Rich dudes who made useful things and then gave back:

Marvin Caruthers (CU): cofounder of Amgen and ABI, inventor of practical oligonucleotide synthesis and all that has brought

Rick Silverman (NU): inventor of Lyrica, textbook writer, cares about education

Each used their wealth to give a research facility to their home institutions (where each has taught for 3+ decades). Is there anything more influential than literally building a place to train the next generation of chemists?

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54. Andy evans on June 13, 2013 1:55 PM writes...

@39 thanks, I like to see the world.....

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55. Vincent on June 13, 2013 2:10 PM writes...

Does they have do be from the 20th century ? If not, Lavoisier and Dalton were extremely influencial in creating modern chemistry, and set up the very base of our discipline.
However, as far as influence and fame goes, I'd nominate Mendeleiev. His work is in all and every office!

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56. DannoH on June 13, 2013 2:31 PM writes...

How about Glenn Seaborg? I would say that the downstream development of his work has had at least a small influence on the world as we know it.

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57. Big Fish on June 13, 2013 3:24 PM writes...

Even with the space dinosaur fiasco, I would say Ron Breslow should be on the list.

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58. TfOH on June 13, 2013 4:04 PM writes...

George Olah

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59. Big Fish on June 13, 2013 7:10 PM writes...

Y T Lee

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60. Secondaire on June 13, 2013 9:05 PM writes...

#53 - I second Rick Silverman. He's a phenomenal human being.

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61. Texascarbon on June 13, 2013 11:24 PM writes...

Amazed it took me til 43 to find Derek Lowe. Saw a lot of familiar names, but when you combine respect and influence... Real influence... I'd say good ol DL has brought up a formidable grass roots following over the last decade in a then unconventional way.
I second the DL vote.

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62. Model on June 14, 2013 1:37 AM writes...

#61 might be onto something. I open this site first thing in the morning (followed quickly by Org Lett).

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63. Gary on June 14, 2013 10:20 PM writes...

Sam Danishefsky and David Evans. Equally crazy, equally briliant thinkers.

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64. Anonymous on June 15, 2013 12:04 PM writes...

For synthetic chemists, the most influential people are the editors of highly ranked journals, such as JACS. They decide which paper gets into the journal by selecting the "appropriate" reviewers. They also decide if the manuscript is even reviewed. More JACS = more grant money. It's just the reality.

Evans and Danishefsky used to be the power brokers in the synthetic community, placing their people at top jobs through their influence and strong personalities. I believe they have been replaced with Jacobsen and MacMillan.

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65. Dubz on June 16, 2013 12:36 AM writes...

Jean-Pierre Sauvage? Stoddart and co's whole field of work is only possible because of his discoveries (and he's not such a horrific self-publicist as Stoddart!).

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66. Chad Jones on June 16, 2013 10:36 PM writes...

Jack Beauchamp. In my field you either came from the Beauchamp lab or were trained by someone that did.

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67. doc on June 17, 2013 6:59 PM writes...

Since we're being inclusive...

Sir James Black. Multiple new classes of drugs (beta blockers, acid secretion inhibitors...). Leo Sternbach (Valium). Paul A J Janssen (antifungals, haloperidol, fentanyl...) Corwin Hansch. Harry Day (stannous fluoride for tooth decay). Roger Adams. Louis Fieser.

Aw, the hell with it: Everyone who has a prep in Org Syn, V1- present. 'Nuff said.

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68. jon on June 19, 2013 8:06 AM writes...

William Pirkle - the entire field of chiral separations is a derivative of his early work.

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69. vetori on June 19, 2013 2:25 PM writes...

Abigail Doyle

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70. CK on June 21, 2013 5:40 PM writes...

Dave Nichols

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