I-1   Prof. Dieter Seebach, ETH Zürich

My Sixty Years of Chemistry – a Magical Mystery Tour

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. em. Dieter Seebach*

*Laboratorium für Organische Chemie, Department für Chemie und Angewandte Biowissenschaften, ETH Zürich, Hönggerberg, HCI H331, Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 10, CH-8093 Zürich, Switzerland – www.loc.ethz.ch ↗

The history of Michael additions to nitroolefins investigated in our group will allow me to tell the story of my chemical endeavours from preparing nitro compounds in a laboratory in the basement of my parent's house (at the age of 15) to umpolung of reactivity, to stoichiometric enantioselective reagents using chiral auxiliaries (prolinol methyl ether, DIOZ), to in-situ cascade reactions, to TADDOL-titanate Lewis-acid catalyzed reactions, to aggregation of organolithium compounds, to multiple-coupling reagents, to self-regenerations of stereogenic centers, and finally to the mechanism of organocatalytic reactions using the Hayshi catalyst.

Curriculum Vitae

Born in 1937 in Karlsruhe (Germany), Nationality: German.

Education: Elementary and secondary schools in Karlsruhe, B.S. 1961, PhD 1964 (thesis on small-ring compounds and peroxides, supervisor R. Criegee) at the University of Karlsruhe (TH).
Postdoctoral Fellow with E.J. Corey (Li-dithianes) and Lecturer on Chemistry at Harvard University (1965/1966). Independent research at Karlsruhe led to a Habilitation on sulfur- and selenium-stabilized carbanions and carbenes in 1969.
Full Professor at the Justus Liebig-Universität Giessen (1971–1977) and since 1977 at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich; retired since 2003.

Present and past areas of research: Development of new synthetic methods (umpolung of reactivity, use of organometallic derivatives, of aliphatic nitro-compounds, of small rings, and of tartaric acid, enantioselective catalysis, self-regeneration of stereogenic centers, use of microorganisms and enzymes, chiral fluorine-containing building blocks, backbone modifications of peptides), natural product synthesis (macrodiolides, alkaloides, amino acids), mechanistic studies (dissociation of C,C bonds, stability of carbenoids, aggregation of Li-compounds, pyramidalization of trigonal centers, TiX4 catalysis), structure determination (Li- and Mg-derivatives, NMR-spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction), chemical and biochemical aspects of poly(hydroxyalkanoates) (PHB/PHA), syntheses of enantiopure compounds with TADDOL auxiliaries, chiral dendrimers, and β-peptides, the latter area being the topic of present research, together with mechanistic investigations of organocatalyses. The results have been described in over 850 research papers, in 150 PhD theses, and in numerous lectures held at national and international meetings and at companies (>1100 in all).

Awards and Prizes (selection): Karl Ziegler-Preis (GDCh, 1987), Fluka Prize (Reagent of the year 1987), 1992 ACS Award for Creative Work in Organic Synthesis, Roger Adams Award (ACS, 1999), King Faisal Prize 1999 for Science, Marcel Benoist-Preis (CH, 2000), A.-W.-v.Hofmann Medal (GDCh, 2003), Tetrahedron Prize (2003), du Vigneaud Award (2004), Ryoji Noyori Prize (2004), Max-Bergmann Medal (2005).


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