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The Robert B. Woodward collection


Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

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Robert Burns Woodward was born in Boston, MA on April 10, 1917. He entered MIT in 1933 and left with a Ph.D. in 1937. Following a short stint teaching at the University of Illinois-Urbana, he accepted a position at Harvard University in 1937. He remained at Harvard until his death. Highpoints of Woodward's career included work with U-V spectroscopy to determine the structures of natural products, work with the War Production Board that led to the Woodward-Doering synthesis of alkaloid quinine in 1944, and his service as an advisor on the Board's penicillin project. He became known as a specialist in organic syntheses. In the early 1950s his work with Geoffrey Wilkinson led to the synthesis of ferrocene ushering in the field of Transition Metal Organometallic Chemistry. In 1960 Woodward achieved his most complex synthesis when, with Albert Eschenmoser of Zurich, he synthesized Vitamin B12. In 1965 he received a Nobel Prize for the work in the syntheses of complex organic molecules. The Woodward-Hoffman Rules governing organic syntheses also date from this period. Woodward was the recipient of many awards and served as Director of the Robert Wood Institute in Basel, Switzerland. He died in Cambridge, MA of a heart attack on July 8, 1979.

This is a small discontinuous collections relating to the career of Robert Burns Woodward. The highpoints of the collection are several drawings made by Woodward of structures demonstrating inorganic superconductivity.

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