Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Slow Down, Bob

An open letter to R.B. Woodward (RIP):
(Playfully adapted from Dr. Freddy's post)

Dear Bob,

Listen, I know you can't hear me right now, but I feel like this post may be overdue. Back in your day, the closest thing to "blogs" were the Editorial pages of the newspaper and (actual, cork) bulletin boards. Thus, I'll ask on behalf of all struggling grads and bench chemists: could you please stop being so darn productive?

Someone recently pointed me in the direction of your dual MIT theses. That doctoral title, what chutzpah!

I know, I know, things were different back then. You didn't have a single NMR in your dissertation; after all, it wasn't invented yet! Ditto mass spec or HPLC traces. You characterize everything by mp, bp, and elemental, and yet I can't believe you finished your Ph.D. in a year. 

Dissertation Stats: 64 (typewritten) pages, 23 (hand-drawn) structures, 27 references

Of course, we all know what happened next. You postdoc'd at Illinois for maybe two weeks, and jumped over to Harvard for a 40-year stint. You (almost) single-handedly applied UV and IR to molecular characterization, you made strychnine, chlorophyll, and B12, and you won a single-scientist Nobel at the ripe old age of 48. Some folks even thought you might have deserved (at least) one more

Your personality still towers over us today - legends of blue suits, chain smoking, and three-hour lectures abound in roughly 58.8%* of recent blog posts. Even your fashion sense is back in vogue, (perhaps) influenced** by your invisible hand.

While you were making quinine and cortisone in your 30s, we're now just trying to find good, stable jobs. So Bob, please enjoy your well-earned rest, and stop reminding us of how life could have been a few generations ago. We just can't bear the comparison.

*Studies show that roughly 95% of statistics are made up on the spot
**And Mad Men


  1. I LOL'd

    Thanks for the mention :)

  2. Dearest See Arr Oh:

    I can't help it, I am just that good. Try to keep up with me, even as I've gone onto my reward.

    Love, R.B.

  3. SAO: is that a pentavalent carbon I see in structure III (page 7) of the dissertation?

    1. Why, yes, yes it is! Great catch, Anon!

    2. Evidently the master was testing the water for a career in advertising!

    3. AnonFebruary06,20132:45:

      You dare question my structures! I curse you! Api ro deru. Ral ilit xet po bos SERGIO!

    4. I've been in your 12 Oxford Street attic, I've seen your sedan chair, your UV-Vis spectrophotometer, and now this?!?