Field of Science

Another joy

Some time back, Paul had listed reasons for why someone would want to become a chemist. I realised one more; you get to hear about exotic books, journals and universities. And this of course applies to all the sciences.

We are analysing the conformation and solution behaviour of an alkaloid, and we ran into some trouble because the molecule seemed to decompose in solution. While investigating possible reasons and pathways for why this could happen, I discovered (or rather, rediscovered) Manfred Hesse's splendid Alkaloids: Nature's Blessing or Curse? This is a lavishly illustrated book about the history, synthesis, biosynthesis, and uses of alkaloids, with hundreds of colour photographs of alkaloid chemists, plants, and flowers. Then, while investigating the pathway elucidated in the book further, I came across a relevant paper from the Collection of Czechoslovak Chemical Communications. And finally, a colleague sent me another relevant paper from a group at Semmelweis University whose name I had not heard before...this of course reminded me of Ignaz Semmelweis, the Austro-Hungarian doctor who pioneered the use of antiseptics and was a founding contributor to the germ theory of disease, who tragically took his life in the face of vehement opposition.

The connections that chemistry and science spawn are colourful and always intriguing.

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