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Born on this day
James LoMenzo
2nd week in year
13 January 2019

Important personalitiesBack

Herbert Charles Brown22.5.1912

Wikipedia (12 Apr 2013, 15:54)
Herbert Charles Brown (May 22, 1912 – December 19, 2004) was a chemist and Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate for his work with organoboranes.

Life and career

Brown was born Herbert Brovarnik in London, to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants from Zhitomir, Pearl (Gorinstein) and Charles Brovarnik, a hardware store manager and carpenter. He moved to the United States in June 1914, at the age of two. In autumn 1935, he entered the University of Chicago, completed two years of studies in three quarters, and earned a B.S. in 1936. That same year, he became a naturalized United States citizen. On February 6, 1937, Brown married Sarah Baylen, the person he credits with making him interested in hydrides of boron, a topic related to the work in which he with Georg Wittig won the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1979. Two years after starting graduate studies, he earned a Ph.D. in 1938, also from the University of Chicago. Unable to find a position in industry, he decided to accept an offer for a position as a post-doctorate. This became the beginning of his academic career. He became an Instructor at the University of Chicago in 1939, and held the position for four years before moving to Wayne University in Detroit as an Assistant Professor. In 1946, he was promoted to an Associate Professor. He became a Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Purdue University in 1947 and joined Alpha Chi Sigma there in 1960. He held the position of Professor Emeritus from 1978 until his death in 2004. The Herbert C. Brown Laboratory of Chemistry was named after him on Purdue University's campus. He was an honorary member of the International Academy of Science.

During World War II, while working with Hermann Irving Schlesinger, Brown discovered a method for producing sodium borohydride (NaBH4), which can be used to produce boranes, compounds of boron and hydrogen. His work led to the discovery of the first general method for producing asymmetric pure enantiomers. The elements found as initials of his name H, C and B were his working field.

In 1969, he was awarded the National Medal of Science.

Brown was quick to credit his wife Sarah with supporting him and allowing him to focus on creative efforts by handling finances, maintaining the house and yard, etc. According to Brown, after receiving the Nobel prize in Stockholm, he carried the medal and she carried the US$100,000 award.

He died December 19, 2004, at a hospital in Lafayette, Indiana after a heart attack.

(photo source

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