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Louis Frederick Fieser, 1965
Louis Frederick Fieser (April 7, 1899 – July 25, 1977) was an organic chemist, professor, and in 1968, professor emeritus at Harvard Universitymarker. He was renowned as the inventor, in 1943, of a militarily effective form of napalm. His award-winning research included work on blood-clotting agents including the first synthesis of vitamin K, synthesis and screening of quinones as antimalarial drugs, work with steroids leading to the synthesis of cortisone, and study of the nature of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Overview

Fieser was born in Columbus, Ohiomarker, obtained his BA in chemistry in 1920 from Williams College, and his PhD under James Bryant Conant at Harvard in 1924. His graduate research concerned the measurement of oxidation potentials in quinone oxidation . in 1924 -1925 Fieser worked at the University of Oxfordmarker with W.H. Perkin Jr. and with Julius von Braun at the Frankfurt Universitymarker as a postdoc. Between 1925 and 1930 he worked at Bryn Mawr Collegemarker where he met his future wife. He then moved to Harvard Universitymarker.

With his research assistant and wife Mary Peters Fieser (MA, 1936, Radcliffe) he coauthored eight books and the first seven volumes of the classic series Reagents for Organic Synthesis known popularly among chemists as "Fieser and Fieser". He was also an editor and contributor for Organic syntheses.

Fieser had two chemical reagents named for him. Fieser's reagent is a mixture of chromium trioxide in acetic acid. Fieser's solution is an aqueous solution of potassium hydroxide, sodium hydrosulfite, and sodium anthraquinone b-sulfonate used for the removal of oxygen from a gas stream. Woodward's rules for calculating UV absorption maxima are also known as the Woodward-Fieser rules.

In 1939 Fieser was involved in a competitive race for the structure elucidation of Vitamin K and he was able to report its synthesis in the end of that year . According to a recent in memoriam Fieser was a contender for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1941 and 1942 (when no prizes were actually awarded) but in 1943 the award for the discovery of vitamin K was given to another worker in this field.

In 1962 he served on the U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory Committee that in 1964 issued a report on the relationship between smoking and health. Fieser was a chain smoker and only after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1965 and recovered he quit the habit and started to actively promote the committee's conclusions.

Fieser was the graduate advisor of 1987 Nobel laureate Donald J. Cram.

He was also involved in Project X-ray, a scheme to drop a great number of bats with small incendiary charges with a timed fuse attached over Japan to start a multitude of fires.

Dow Chemical began producing his formula for Napalm during World War II. Despite Fieser's involvement in losing control of several of these bats, and the resultant accidental burning of an auxiliary airbase in the southwestern United States, it was not until the Vietnam War that the use of the jellied gasoline stirred controversy. Fieser, however, was unapologetic for its creation. He stated, "I have no right to judge the morality of Napalm just because I invented it, nor was it my fault those bats got away from me."

Notes



References

  • Gates, M., Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Science 1994, vol. 65, p. 161-175
  • "Steroids", Scientific American, January 1955, Vol.192, No.1, pp.52-60


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