Derek Barton

Derek Barton

English chemist, Nobel Prize winner in chemistry (1969).
Date of Birth: 08.09.1918
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Derek Barton
  2. Early Life and Education

  3. Early Career

  4. Contributions to Chemistry

  5. Later Career and Achievements

  6. Personal Life and Honors

Biography of Derek Barton

Early Life and Education

Derek Harold Richard Barton, an English chemist and Nobel laureate in Chemistry (1969), was born in Gravesend, on the banks of the Thames, near London. He was born to William Thomas Barton and Mod (Henrietta) Barton. He received his primary and secondary education at Tonbridge School and later attended the Gillingham Technical College. In 1938, he transferred to the Imperial College of Science and Technology at the University of London, where he received an honorary Bachelor of Science degree in 1940 and a PhD in organic chemistry in 1942.

Early Career

After completing his education, Barton participated in chemical research related to defense goals for two years. He then briefly worked as a chemical engineer and researcher at the Albright & Wilson company in Birmingham. Following the end of World War II in 1945, Barton became an assistant lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College. In 1946...1949, he was awarded a scholarship to conduct scientific research, which allowed him to carry out his study on organic molecules and earn his second doctoral degree in 1949. The following year, while working as a visiting lecturer on the chemistry of natural compounds at Harvard University, Barton became interested in establishing the precise configuration of organic molecules.

Contributions to Chemistry

At the time Barton began his research, chemists were able to classify molecules based on their composition and configuration. However, the three-dimensional structure of molecules remained unclear. Barton realized that understanding the structure of organic molecules would provide crucial information about their chemical behavior and interactions with other molecules. His research focused on the study of the different reaction rates of various types of steroids, a significant group of organic compounds prevalent in bile acids, hormones, and other physiological substances. Barton sought to determine if these differences could be explained by the physical structure of the molecules.

Barton was aware of the discoveries made by Odd Hassel and applied them to develop his own method for analyzing the structure of complex organic molecules. This method, now known as conformational analysis, not only allowed for a better understanding and prediction of the behavior of biologically important molecules such as steroids and hydrocarbons but also opened up the possibility for chemists to study the three-dimensional structure of large molecules.

Later Career and Achievements

After returning to England in 1951, Barton began working at Birkbeck College, University of London, where he became a professor of organic chemistry two years later. In 1955, he became the professor of the Royal Chair of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow. There, he applied the method of conformational analysis to study various types of organic substances, including alkaloids, a class of complex molecules that includes nicotine and morphine.

From 1957 to 1978, Barton served as a professor of organic chemistry at Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London. During these years, he frequently lectured in the United States. While at the Research Institute of Medicine and Chemistry in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1960, he developed a method of initiating chemical reactions using light, which became known as the Barton process. This process led to the synthesis of aldosterone, a hormone that regulates the levels of sodium and potassium in the kidneys. In 1969, Barton and Hassel were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for their contributions to the development of the concept of conformation and its application in chemistry." In his Nobel lecture, Barton traced the development of conformational analysis and described its application in chemistry and biology.

In 1978, Barton retired from Imperial College of Science and Technology and became the director of the Institute of Natural Compound Chemistry in Gif-sur-Yvette, France. From 1960 onwards, his research interests shifted from conformational analysis to areas such as photochemistry and biosynthesis.

Personal Life and Honors

In 1944, Barton married Janet Kate Wilkins, who gave birth to their son. After their divorce, he remarried Christiane Koné, a French high school professor in London. Barton was deeply dedicated to his scientific work and generously shared his knowledge, frequently giving lectures in the United States and Canada. He received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Corday-Morgan Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry (1951), the Fritzsche Award (1956), and the Roger Adams Award (1959) of the American Chemical Society. He also received the Davy Medal (1961), the Royal Medal (1972), and the Copley Medal (1980) from the Royal Society of London. Barton was a fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, as well as a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He held honorary degrees from several universities, including Columbia University, the University of Oxford, and the University of Manchester.