Barton, Sir Derek H.R.

▪ British chemist
in full  Sir Derek Harold Richard Barton  
born September 8, 1918, Gravesend, Kent, England
died March 16, 1998, College Station, Texas, U.S.

      joint recipient, with Odd Hassel (Hassel, Odd) of Norway, of the 1969 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on “conformational analysis,” the study of the three-dimensional geometric structure of complex molecules, now an essential part of organic chemistry.

Education and early career
      The son and grandson of successful carpenters, Barton was able to attend a good private school. Rather than join his father's wood business after graduation, he chose to pursue higher education. After one year at Gillingham Technical College, Barton entered Imperial College of Science and Technology (Imperial College) in London, where he developed what became a lifelong interest in the chemistry of natural products. Barton earned both his baccalaureate and doctoral degrees from Imperial College, in 1940 and 1942, respectively. Upon completing his doctoral research, Barton spent much of the remainder of World War II investigating invisible inks for military intelligence purposes. After a year working for the chemical industry in Birmingham, he joined the faculty of Imperial College in 1945, first as an assistant lecturer and later as a research fellow. Although the college did not offer him a position in organic chemistry, he was able to teach physical and inorganic chemistry there for four years while conducting research in his field of choice, organic chemistry. Spending time in all of these areas of chemistry helped him better appreciate the value of these interrelated disciplines.

Conformational analysis
      In 1949 Barton took up a one-year visiting professorship at Harvard University that proved crucial to his intellectual and professional development. At that time he formed what became a lifelong friendship and collaboration with R.B. Woodward (Woodward, Robert Burns), and he began his seminal work on conformational analysis. Barton's four-page “The Conformation of the Steroid Nucleus” (1950) immediately caught the attention of the scientific community, particularly organic chemists. The paper's most immediate impact was seen in the way it provided a theoretical foundation for considerable experimental work in the field of steroid structure and synthesis. Barton's work unified many of the diverse findings about the chemical and biological behaviour of steroids that had been uncovered during the first half of the 20th century, and it was for this work that Barton received the Nobel Prize in 1969. Returning to London in 1950, Barton took up a position at Birkbeck College, University of London (London, University of). There he taught organic chemistry and pursued his research on the structure and synthesis of steroids. During this time he and Woodward completed their synthesis of lanosterol, a key intermediate in the biosynthesis of steroids.

      After serving a brief period as a professor of chemistry at the University of Glasgow (Glasgow, University of) from 1955 to 1957, Barton returned to Imperial College where he remained for 20 years. At Imperial College he introduced a number of pedagogic innovations to complement his lectures, including seminars devoted to problem solving and a tutorial system. Barton, driven by the aesthetics of his work as well as by his own intellectual curiosity, highly valued doing useful things. The posing and solving of problems were special joys; particularly difficult problems and elegant, efficient solutions made the task all the more enjoyable. Barton was happiest when all these ideals coalesced into one project, as they did with his work on the synthesis of aldosterone, a steroid hormone that controls the balance of electrolytes in the body.

      In 1958 Barton collaborated on aldosterone with the Schering Corporation at its Research Institute for Medicine and Chemistry in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He discovered what is now known as the Barton reaction, a photochemical process that provided an easier means of synthesizing aldosterone. The project was a tremendous success, and Barton maintained a consulting relationship with Schering for the next 40 years. Barton's scientific work flourished, too, as he successfully expanded his research agenda in the chemistry of radicals (radical) and photochemistry (photochemical reaction). He made significant and lasting contributions in all the areas of chemistry he explored, and he was knighted in 1972.

Later career
      Although Barton officially retired twice, his final two decades were quite active and productive. A year before retiring from Imperial College, he was appointed director of research at the Institute of Organic Chemistry's National Centre for Scientific Research in Gif-sur-Yvette, France, a position he held from 1977 to 1985. Ever pursuing the useful and the elegant, Barton devoted much of his energy during these years, in both France and the United States, to the development of new synthetic methods through the use of free radicals. He later viewed this pursuit as his true mission as a chemist. After reaching the mandatory retirement age in France in 1986, he accepted a distinguished professorship at Texas A&M University (Texas A&M University), which he held until his death.

      Although Barton is most often remembered for his Nobel Prize-winning work on conformational analysis, he made considerable contributions to the art and science of organic chemistry. An outgoing scientist, Barton regularly traveled, accepted many lectureships and visiting professorships, and often worked as an industrial consultant. He adamantly believed in the sharing of knowledge and the importance of exposing one's ideas to critical review.

Leo B. Slater

Additional Reading
Derek H.R. Barton and Shyamal I. Parekh, Half a Century of Free Radical Chemistry (1993), provides considerable detail about Barton's work with free radicals. Derek H.R. Barton, Some Recollections of Gap Jumping (1991), reveals much about his career development. See also Laylin K. James (ed.), Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, 1901–1992 (1993), for both biographical and scientific information together with a brief bibliography of Barton's writings.Leo B. Slater

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Barton , Sir Derek Harold Richard — (1918–1998) British chemist Barton was born in Gravesend and was educated at Imperial College, London, where he obtained his PhD in 1942. After doing some industrial research he spent a year as visiting lecturer at Harvard before being appointed… …   Scientists

  • Barton, Sir Derek Harold Richard — ▪ 1999       British chemist (b. Sept. 8, 1918, Gravesend, Kent, Eng. d. March 16, 1998, College Station, Texas), altered the landscape of modern chemistry by originating the fields of conformational analysis and stereochemistry. He showed how… …   Universalium

  • Barton, Sir Derek H(arold) R(ichard) — born Sept. 8, 1918, Gravesend, Kent, Eng. died March 16, 1998, College Station, Texas, U.S. British chemist. Unsatisfied in his father s carpentry business, he entered London s Imperial College and received his doctorate in 1942. His studies… …   Universalium

  • Barton, Sir Derek H(arold) R(ichard) — (8 sep. 1918, Gravesend, Kent, Inglaterra–16 mar. 1998, College Station, Texas, EE.UU.). Químico británico. Insatisfecho en el negocio de carpintería de su padre, ingresó al Imperial College de Londres y recibió su doctorado en 1942. Sus estudios …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • sir — /serr/, n. 1. a respectful or formal term of address used to a man: No, sir. 2. (cap.) the distinctive title of a knight or baronet: Sir Walter Scott. 3. (cap.) a title of respect for some notable personage of ancient times: Sir Pandarus of Troy …   Universalium

  • sir — (Voz inglesa.) ► sustantivo masculino Tratamiento honorífico empleado por los británicos. * * * sir (ingl.; pronunc. [ser]) m. *Tratamiento de respeto usado en Inglaterra delante de un nombre de hombre o para dirigirse a la persona de que se… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Derek — /der ik/, n. a male given name. * * * (as used in expressions) Barton Sir Derek Harold Richard Derek Niven van den Bogaerde Walcott Derek Alton * * * …   Universalium

  • Derek — (as used in expressions) Barton, Sir Derek H(arold) R(ichard) Derek Niven van den Bogaerde Walcott, Derek (Alton) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Derek Barton — Sir Derek Barton Born 8 September 1918(1918 09 08) Gravesend, England Died 16 March 1998(1998 03 16) …   Wikipedia

  • Derek Harold Richard Barton — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Sir Derek Harold Richard Barton ( Gavesend, Inglaterra 1918 College Station, EUA 1998 ) fue un fisicoquímico y profesor universitario inglés galardonado con el Premio Nobel de Química del año 1969. Biografía Nació el …   Wikipedia Español

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