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Herbert C. Brown

Herbert C. BrownAKA Herbert Charles Brovarnik

Born: 22-May-1912
Birthplace: London, England
Died: 19-Dec-2004
Location of death: West Lafayette, IN
Cause of death: Heart Failure

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

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Discovered organoboranes

American chemist Herbert C. Brown studied aromatic substitution, molecular addition compounds, the reacceptance of steric effects, and the relation of borohydrides and diborane in organic synthesis. In collaboration with his son, chemist Charles A. Brown, he devised what is now called the simplified Brown procedure for laboratory-scale hydrogenations. In 1956 he discovered that unsaturated organic molecules can be easily converted to organoboranes through hydroboration reactions, adding boron and hydrogen to multiple bonds, which led to the development of dozens of combinations of boron and hydrogen that have been used in manufacturing medicines and other organic compounds. The practical impact of his work was to greatly reduce the amount of time necessary to synthesize new compounds for testing as potential pharmaceuticals.

He shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1979, and he is the namesake and was the first recipient of the American Chemical Society's Herbert C. Brown Award, in 1998. He said that he was first drawn to chemistry by the gift of a book on the topic from his girlfriend, a chemist who later became his wife. His last name was Anglicized to Brown as his family immigrated to America in 1914; he was born Herbert Charles Brovarnik.

Father: Charles Brovarnik (carpenter, hardware store manager, d. 1926)
Mother: Pearl Gorinstein
Sister: Ann (b. 1909)
Sister: Sophie (b. 1916)
Sister: Riva (b. 1918)
Wife: Sarah Baylen (chemist, b. 1916, m. 6-Feb-1937, d. 2005, one son)
Son: Charles (chemist with Hitachi)

    High School: Englewood High School, Chicago, IL (1930)
    University: Crane Junior College, Chicago (attended briefly, 1933)
    University: Lewis Institute, Chicago (attended, 1933-34)
    University: Wilbur Wright College (attended, 1934-35)
    University: BS, University of Chicago (1936)
    University: PhD Chemistry, University of Chicago (1938)
    Scholar: Chemistry, University of Chicago (1938-39)
    Teacher: Chemistry, University of Chicago (1939-43)
    Teacher: Chemistry, Wayne State University (1943-47)
    Professor: Inorganic Chemistry, Purdue University (1947-59)
    Professor: Wetherill Professor of Chemistry, Purdue University (1959-78)

    William H. Nichols Medal 1959
    ACS Award for Creative Research 1960
    ACS Linus Pauling Medal 1968
    National Medal of Science 1969
    ACS Roger Adams Medal 1971
    ACS Charles Frederick Chandler Medal 1973
    ACS Madison Marshall Award 1975
    Elliott Cresson Gold Medal of the Franklin Institute 1978
    SCI Sir William H. Perkin Medal 1982
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1979 (with Georg Wittig)
    Priestley Medal 1981
    AIC Gold Medal 1985
    NAS Award in Chemical Sciences 1987
    Order of the Rising Sun 1987, with Gold and Silver Star
    ACS Ralph and Helen Oesper Award 1990
    ACS Herbert C. Brown Award 1998
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1966
    American Chemical Society
    Indian Academy of Sciences Foreign Fellow, 1978
    National Academy of Sciences 1957
    Royal Society of Chemistry Foreign Member, 1978
    Alpha Chi Sigma Chemistry Fraternity
    Naturalized US Citizen 1936
    Heart Attack 19-Dec-2004 (fatal)
    Jewish Ancestry
    Ukrainian Ancestry

Author of books:
Hydroboration (1962, chemistry)
Boranes in Organic Chemistry (1972, chemistry)
Organic Syntheses via Boranes (1975, chemistry)
The Nonclassical Ion Problem (1976, chemistry)
Aspects of Mechanism and Organometallic Chemistry (1978, chemistry; with James H. Brewster)
Hydroboration (1979, chemistry)
Herbert C. Brown: A Life in Chemistry (1980, collected papers)
Borane Reagents (1988, chemistry; with Andrew Pelter and Keith Smith)


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