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Vladimir Prelog

Vladimir PrelogBorn: 23-Jul-1906
Birthplace: Sarajevo, Bosnia
Died: 7-Jan-1998
Location of death: Zürich, Switzerland
Cause of death: Illness
Remains: Cremated, Mirogoj Cemetery, Zagreb, Croatia

Gender: Male
Religion: Agnostic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: Switzerland
Executive summary: Stereochemistry of enzyme-catalysts

Military service: Royal Yugoslav Navy (1932-35, to under-lieutenant)

Swiss scientist Vladimir Prelog (friends called him "Vlado") developed x-ray analysis techniques to reveal the stereochemical structures of numerous complex organic molecules, and laid out the general rules of molecular structure in relation to the properties of chemical compounds. He also developed reliable systemic rules for using x-ray analysis to determine whether the atoms of a lopsided, or asymmetric, carbon-based molecule are arranged in "right-handed" or "left-handed" placement (either arrangement contains the same atoms, but the atoms are connected in mirror-image arrangements). He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1975, sharing the honor with John Cornforth.

Prelog was agnostic, and so strongly opposed to authoritarianism that when he was named as director of the laboratory at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology he instead reorganized the lab's responsibilities so that it operated efficiently without any further administrative efforts. He was the butt of his favorite joke, which he recounted often, in which he cajoled a colleague, Robert B. Woodward, to say something nice about the frequently grumpy chemist Sir Robert Robinson, and Woodward claimed that Robinson had said "Prelog is not a good chemist, but he is a nice person".

On 28 June 1914, when Prelog was almost eight years old and still living in his native Sarajevo, he was one of several dozen "flower boys" arrayed along the carriage route of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his duchess, holding a basket of colorful pedals and leaves to shower onto the Archduke's parade path. Instead, of course, the Duke and Duchess were assassinated a few hundred feet from where the boy stood, launching the conflagration we now call World War I. During the second World War Prelog fled Nazi-occupied Zagreb and settled in Switzerland, where he became a citizen and worked for decades at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich.

Father: Milan Prelog (teacher)
Mother: Mara Cettolo (div. 1915)
Wife: Kamila Vítek (m. 31-Oct-1933, one son)
Son: Jan (b. 1949)

    High School: Osijek High School, Osijek, Croatia
    University: Dr. Ing. Chemistry, University of Prague (1929)
    Lecturer: Chemistry, University of Zagreb (1935-40)
    Teacher: Organic Chemistry, University of Zagreb (1940-41)
    Lecturer: Chemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (1942-47)
    Teacher: Chemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (1947-50)
    Professor: Chemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (1950-76)

    Marcel Benoist Award 1965
    Davy Medal 1967
    August Wilhelm von Hofmann Medal for Chemistry 1968
    ACS Roger Adams Medal 1969
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1975 (with John Cornforth)
    Paracelsus Medal 1976
    Member of the Board of Ciba (1963-71)
    Member of the Board of Ciba-Geigy (1971-78)
    Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences
    Accademia dei Lincei
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences Foreign Member
    German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina Foreign Member
    National Academy of Sciences Foreign Associate
    Royal Danish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    Royal Irish Academy Foreign Member
    Royal Society Foreign Member, 1962
    Russian Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    Austrian Ancestry
    Bosnian Ancestry
    Hungarian Ancestry
    Naturalized Swiss Citizen 1959
    Risk Factors: Malaria

Author of books:
Lavoslav Ruzicka, 1887-1976 (1987, biography of Leopold Ruzicka; with Oskar Jeger)


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