Prof. Herbert C. Brown

1979 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Herbert C. Brown (1912-2004) was one of the leading American chemists of the 20th century, his Nobel Prize-winning work with boron compounds revolutionized synthetic organic chemistry.

His discoveries at Purdue opened entirely new avenues in both academic and industrial chemistry. Boranes are now used in the synthesis of many organic compounds, including medications such as the antidepressant Prozac and the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor.

Brown came to Purdue in 1947. During the late-1950s, he and his students discovered that unsaturated organic molecules can be readily converted to organoboranes through hydroboration reactions, in which boron and hydrogen add to multiple bonds.

He supervised a very large group of graduate students and post-doctoral researchers—most notably Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki, 2010 Nobel laureates who studied with Brown in the 1960s. Brown retired in 1979 but continued to be an active researcher until his death in 2004.

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