Herbert C. Brown

  • From:

    Purdue University │ West Lafayette, Indiana

  • Year:

    1978

  • Subject:

    Chemistry

  • Award:

    Cresson

  • Citation:

    For the development of methods for synthesis of diborane and alkali metal hydrides.

Herbert C. Brown was born in London, England in 1912. His family moved to the United States when he was young, so he received his education in Chicago, obtaining his B.S. in 1936 and his Ph.D. in 1938, both from the University of Chicago. Dr. Brown spent several years as an Instructor at the University of Chicago before leaving for Wayne University, where he was an Assistant Professor (1943-1946) and Associate Professor (1946-1947). In 1947, he transferred to Purdue University, where he remained throughout the rest of his career.

Dr. Brown's studies of molecular addition compounds contributed to the reacceptance of steric effects as a major factor in chemical behavior. His work on applications of the borohydrides and diborane to organic synthesis have had revolutionary impact on synthetic organic chemistry. Finally, the new borohydride preparation of active hydrogenation catalysts was discovered in collaboration with his son, Charles A. Brown, and this in turn led to the new simplified Brown procedure for laboratory-scale hydrogenations. Dr. Brown is well-known for his explorations of the role of boron in organic chemistry. He discovered that the simplest compound of boron and hydrogen, diborane, adds easily to unsaturated organic molecules to give organoboranes. This discovery has spawned new fields of research.

Information as of 1978