Robert Burns Woodward

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Robert Burns Woodward

Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 8 Jul 1979 (aged 62)
Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Plot Lot 642, Space 7, on Iris Path (overlooking Consecration Dell on the north side)
Memorial ID 151888814 · View Source
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Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry. His father died the year after he was born, and he was raised by his mother Margaret. Money was tight so he had to attend the public schools and did so in Quincy, Massachusetts. He showed early in life an interest in chemistry, buying the book "Practical Methods of Organic Chemistry" when he was fourteen years old. Much of his early education in chemistry was self taught usually from books, magazines or periodicals. At the age of sixteen he was accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but much of his focus centered only on chemistry thus his other subjects suffered, almost resulting in his dismissal. He graduated from MIT with a bachelor's degree in 1936 and in 1937 earned a doctorate, both in chemistry. By 1940 he was publishing articles in major publications including the "Journal of the American Chemical Society." After a brief stop at the University of Illinois he accepted a job at Harvard where he became a research assistant. In 1941 he accepted a position of instructor of chemistry at Harvard, and the following year went to work for Polaroid who had sought him out. It was at Polaroid that he first became involved with the practical application of synthesis of chemicals beginning with quinine which Polaroid used extensively in their products. Quinine would also be found to assist in the treatment of malaria. In 1944 he was appointed an assistant professor at Harvard, and after World War II was promoted to associate professor, and in 1950 became a full professor. In 1951 he completed one of the first total syntheses of steroids cholesterol and cortisone. In the mid 1950's he focused his synthetic efforts on reserpine a product later used for mental illness. He patented his reserpine work and assigned the patent to a nonprofit foundation, the Research Corporation. He corroborated with the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Sandoz providing additional unpublished procedures and details of his synthesis as early as January 1957. For the next two years Sandoz developed methods for scaling up and simplying Woodward's procedures. He later successfully synthesized lanosterol, lyservic acid, strychnine, chlorophyll, colchicine, cephalosporin C, and vitamin B12. The New York Times reported in 1960 that "The Harvard chemist who synthesized quinine, cortisone and rauwolfia, has now achieved one of the greatest triumphs in chemistry-the total synthesis of chlorophyll, the green pigment that captures the energy of sunlight for the creation of the food for all things living." Because of his invaluable contributions to chemistry he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1965. He was said to be the preeminent organic chemist of the twentieth century.

Bio by: Saratoga

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Saratoga
  • Added: 5 Sep 2015
  • Find a Grave Memorial 151888814
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Robert Burns Woodward (10 Apr 1917–8 Jul 1979), Find a Grave Memorial no. 151888814, citing Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .