Sir Derek H.R. Barton (center) leads a research group meeting in this undated photograph. (Credit: Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M University.)


In 1966, then-Texas A&M University President James Earl Rudder '32 charged Dr. Arthur E. Martell, newly appointed head of chemistry within the newly formed College of Science, to expand and enhance Department of Chemistry programs.

Five decades later, Texas A&M Chemistry continues to reflect on Martell's legacy and that of four subsequently pioneering professors -- including Nobel laureate Sir Derek H.R. Barton -- as part of a yearlong celebration commemorating 50 years of chemistry excellence that is set to resume next week.

On Friday, February 3, Texas A&M Chemistry will host the Sir Derek Barton Symposium for Organic Chemistry celebrating the depth and breadth of Barton's many contributions to one of modern chemistry's primary branches made near-synonymous with the man. Barton was a member of the Texas A&M Chemistry faculty from 1986 until his untimely death in 1998 at the age of 79.

The daylong symposium, set to run from 9 a.m. to 5:25 p.m. in the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium within the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, will feature morning and afternoon sessions as well as a combination of rising stars and senior scientists -- some who are former co-workers of Barton's and all of whom have been influenced by his legacy. The event will be followed by a banquet at Christopher's World Grille.

"Derek Barton is remembered fondly by many as a model departmental citizen who, despite his international standing and Nobel Prize, embraced his role as one of our faculty," said Dr. Simon W. North, professor and head of Texas A&M Chemistry.

In a research career spanning over five decades, Barton's contributions to organic chemistry included major discoveries that have profoundly altered our way of thinking about chemical structure and reactivity. During a sabbatical leave at Harvard University in 1950, Barton wrote a paper on conformational analysis that earned him a share in the 1969 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 1957, he developed a remarkable synthesis of the steroid hormone aldosterone via a photochemical reaction that came to be known as the Barton Reaction in his honor.

Barton, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1972, authored more than 1,000 papers as well as many successful patents. Among his major awards in addition to the 1969 Nobel Prize are the 1995 American Chemical Society (ACS) Priestley Medal and the 1995 French Chemical Society Lavoisier Medal. In 1959, he was the first recipient of the ACS Roger Adams Medal, and in 1971 he received the first Award in Natural Product Chemistry from the Chemical Society of London. Barton also was recognized in January 1998 along with fellow Texas A&M chemist Dr. F. Albert Cotton in Chemical & Engineering News' 75th anniversary issue as being among the top 75 chemistry researchers of the past 75 years.

"I remember Derek Barton's advice to you young chemists," said Dr. Emile A. Schweikert, longtime Texas A&M chemist and former department head (1994-2006). "'If you know how to do a reaction you should not do it. You should work on reactions that are potentially important and that you don't know how to do.' Barton's remarkable record of achievements is clear testimony that he followed his own advice!"

For more information on the Barton Symposium, contact Texas A&M Chemistry at (979) 845-9829 or via email at chemhead@chem.tamu.edu.

To see the complete list of 50 Years of Chemistry Excellence events, visit http://www.chem.tamu.edu/50years/.

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Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Simon W. North, (979) 845-4947 or north@chem.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Sir Derek H.R. Barton

    (Credit: Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M University.)

  • It's hard to picture Texas A&M Chemistry without envisioning three of its biggest names, all recruited to Texas A&M University by pioneering department head Dr. Arthur E. Martell (left to right): Dr. A. Ian Scott, Sir Derek Barton, and Dr. F. Albert Cotton. All three will be honored along with Martell and Dr. Wayne Goodman during the department's yearlong celebration of 50 years of chemistry excellence. (Credit: Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M University.)

© Texas A&M University. To request use of any of our photographs for educational use or to view additional options from our archive, please contact the College of Science Communications Office.

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