Saturday, April 4, 2015

At Least 60 Years of Ferrocene: The Discovery and Rediscovery of the Sandwich Complexes #chempaperaday 207

This is probably one of the most interesting and surprising articles I have read. 

I guess all inorganic/organometallic chemists know (I hope) the story of the discovery of ferrocene and other sandwich complexes. It all starts with Pauson and Kealy's Nature papers on the discovery of an unusually stable compound ("What was this remarkable substance we had made?") and goes on. I will not go into the story. If you want to learn, you should read this paper and many other historical papers on these compounds. Later, it turns out that in fact they were not the first people to discover this compound. Many other people had already seen this complex but they simply did not report it. The compound gets attention from several chemists including Woodward, Fischer and Wilkinson. In fact, the name ferrocene was given by Woodward. Soon, the competition between Fischer and Wilkinson started. They literally divided "the periodic table between them".

This is an incredibly well written story. The most interesting two things for me are the comments of a reviewer and Woodward's comments on the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

First, the referee writes to Woodward "We have dispatched your communication to the printer but I cannot help feeling that you have been at the hashish again."

Secondly, Woodwards writes to the committee on the Nobel prize saying "...I am sure-committed a grave injustice...Both of these concepts were simply, completely, and entirely mine, and mine alone." wow!

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