Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Incredibly Consistent R.B. Woodward

Fans of the blog know of my playful hero-worship of R.B. Woodward. A man so well-known for both his chemical triumphs and signature eccentricities (blue suits, cigarettes, slow lectures) should expect nothing less.

Recently, the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry gave me good reason to go goof around on their newly-designed site. I became especially intrigued with their collection of old National Organic Symposium brochures. Among male contemporaries, only E.J. Corey spoke at more NOS meetings (8) than RBW (tied with six others at 6 apiece).

Check out my slow-mo time-lapse photography, culled from appearances in the NOS brochures:

First, E.J. Corey, over a 52-year NOS span:

Next, RBW, over 28 years:

Wow. Same suit, same glasses, same haircut, same expression, far as I can tell!
(He really favored that left side, huh?)

Check out the titles of Woodward's talks:
  • 1977 - "Recent Advances in the Chemistry of Natural Products"
  • 1967 - "Recent Advances in the Chemistry of Natural Products"
  • 1957 - "Recent Advances in the Chemistry of Natural Products"
  • 1953 - "Recent Advances in the Chemistry of Natural Products"
  • 1949 - "Recent Studies on the Structure of Natural Products"
(P.S. All of E.J.'s talk titles were completely different!)

Tiny Victories from Bloggy Activism

The chemblogosphere has certainly taken an activist turn in the past few years. Remember feeling the excitement of Paul's 2009 NaH oxidant live-blog? The ensuing four years saw chem blogs "cantrilling" space dinosaurs, uncovering IBX's secrets, investigating suspicious TEM images, and even weighing in on Nobel Prize selection. Heavy stuff!

Long-time readers understand that I've been in something of a self-imposed exile in the past few months, owing to a lengthy job search. But I couldn't resist writing about a mini-Christmas-miracle that arrived on 12/26. Seems that Dr. Brian Myers, the current ACS Division of Organic Chemistry webmaster, had acted upon my June post investigating the strange DOC logo:
"As a result of this posting, the ACS Organic Division has reverted to using the older version of the logo where the "D" is more prominent. It turns out the logo was "updated" in about 2007 while trying to make a high-resolution graphic for posters, NOS bags, and such. At that time, the leadership was unaware of the fact that the molecule was supposed to spell out DOC.  
As one senior DOC executive committee member recently wrote: 'I assumed it was a truncated steroid, which made historical sense. However it isn't because the ethyl and methyl aren't attached to the right places of what would be the CD rings.'"
Presto, Change-o!
Huzzah! The corrected logo now proudly adorns the DOC main page, and I even got a shout-out in their FAQs. I'm not gonna lie - I felt a small twinge of pride seeing this tiny change I helped effect.

But how did we get the logo in the first place?

Challenge: Dr Myers wants to know if anyone out there can remember the initial DOC logo designer:
"As far as I can tell, the first appearance of the logo was in 1985 on the NOS Program book; however, I would love to know the history of this including the name of the person who designed the original logo"
Anyone with insider info should leave a comment or email me at seearroh_AT_gmail. Let's put this chemistry "cold case" to bed!

A belated Merry Christmas to all, and hopes for a very Happy New Year
See Arr Oh