My Hero



Guest post by Chemistry World intern Dan Johnson

It has often been said of Franz Schubert, the great Austrian composer, that if the mark of a genius is an early death, then he can be considered a greater genius than Mozart. Mozart died at 35; Schubert at 31. But perhaps we should cast the net wider than music. On this scale of genius cut short, the death of Henry Moseley on 10 August 1915, at the age of only 27, might make his life the most fleetingly brilliant of all. His death is all the more poignant for what he might have achieved. In a few short years he laid out the basis for the modern periodic table, predicted the elements that would fill in the gaps and showed that x-rays could be a supreme analytical tool. Few achieve in a lifetime of research what he achieved in a career of just 40 months.

Henry Moseley in his lab

Henry Moseley in his lab

Moseley, known as Harry to his family, came from strong scientific stock. His father, Henry Nottidge Moseley, was a naturalist and professor at Oxford who journeyed on the Challenger expedition; his grandfather was a conchologist and fellow of the Royal Society. As a child it  seemed that he would follow his father –Harry and his sister scoured the surrounding countryside, cataloguing as much of the native flora and fauna as they could find. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The Chemistry World team are going to have some fun with a few Christmas related posts this December. First up, Advent Candles, look out for more in the coming weeks…

Advent candle

For me, candles are a huge part of Christmas. As the night draws in, there’s something about a cosy room full of flickering candle light to really make me feel all Christmassy, and I love singing in candlelit carol services (although I always worry a bit about synthetic fabrics and distracted children). This year, though, there’s another reason for me to enjoy Christmas by candlelight from Michael Faraday, the man who instituted the Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution and general chemistry hero. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

I’m afraid I have something of an ulterior motive in selecting Melvin Calvin as my chemistry hero. There are many brilliant chemists shrouded in the mists of 20th century history, and it was only because of an amusing story I was told by the legendary John Kilcoyne at this year’s Cheltenham Science Festival that I began to take serious notice of Calvin’s work. That said, Calvin is a man worthy of standing alongside some of the other giants of the chemical sciences that have already been featured in this series of blog posts. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Frederick Sanger

Frederick Sanger

Fred Sanger (profiled in Chemistry World in 2005) is the only person ever to have won the Nobel prize in chemistry twice. But that isn’t why he’s my hero. It’s certainly one (or, rather, two) of the reasons, but his unrivalled scientific standing coupled with a world renowned modesty (‘a modest man of strong opinions’ as the Wellcome Trust has it) is what really puts him in a different league. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Most chemists have some lab kit that they use all the time or that they feel gives the best results. For example, when I was completing my studies, the most vital bit of kit for me was the glove box, because I worked with a lot of air-sensitive compounds.

However, there is one bit of kit that sticks out in my mind even more than the glove box, because when I was introduced to chemistry at school, it was one of the first bits of kit I got to use. I am of course talking about the Bunsen burner. For me it symbolised chemistry throughout my education and therefore its creator – Robert Bunsen – is my chemistry hero.

In 1852 Robert Wilhelm Eberhard Bunsen took a job at the University of Heidelberg, in Germany. As part of the deal, the authorities agreed to build him a lab and as Heidelberg had just started installing coal-gas street lighting, Bunsen’s new lab was to have a gas supply. Bunsen, however, wanted to use the gas for heating as well as illumination. So while the lab was still under construction, in 1854, he teamed up with Peter Desaga, the university’s mechanic, to develop a new burner. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)


Woodward with his ubiquitous cigarette


In any field, there are people with such prolific skill and clarity of thought that their work sometimes resembles more a piece of art than science. To understand how the pieces of a puzzle can be fitted together in unexpected ways takes a particular kind of thought.

In synthetic organic chemistry, one such mind belonged to Robert Burns Woodward. Synthesis is even now regarded as something of an arcane science, with an element of art to it. This mostly stems from the fact that – for all our knowledge – you can never be completely sure that any new reaction will work the way you expect it to until you actually mix the stuff up in the lab and try it. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

 

Contraceptive pill2010 saw the 50th anniversary of the contraceptive pill. At Chemistry World we marked the occasion with an article in our September issue which looked at the history of the discovery.

This article inspired me to select Carl Djerassi as my hero. Now emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University, US, and accomplished novelist and playwright, he is best known for his contribution to the development of the first oral contraceptive pill. Obviously, from a scientific point of view his work is very well known and at the time became a major breakthrough; however, my choice is based on the fact that his invention changed the very fabric of society and affects to this day the life of many women around the world.

(more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

To celebrate the International Year of Chemistry we’ve created a new section for Chemistry World where chemistry luminaries and Nobel laureates talk about the chemistry heroes and heroines that inspired them. We start with none other than Harry Kroto, who tells us about his admiration for John ‘Kappa’ Cornforth.

But we are interested in more than just the chemistry heroes of Nobel laureates and so we are asking you to participate in our blog and create an entry with your chemist of choice. The team here will all be making their contribution in the next few weeks and months and our editor Bibiana Campos-Seijo has got the ball rolling with her nomination: Carl Djerassi.

Watch this space for more or your and our heroes.


Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)