Top 5 materials chemists we like

The relative lack of posting on CBC is due to illness and exams--both of us have been sick and are nearing this semester's finals. All apologies. (Please keep reading anyway?)
A Synthetic Environment's prolific top five lists have inspired us to do a top five list. After a bit of debate and a few rounds of asking who the hell is that?, we finally agreed on five scientists who have contributed something to materials science and who we both like. We're still not entirely sure we agree on the order, since it was difficult to attach numbers to people who have done awesome work. We left a lot of people out, too. Sorry.*

5. Klaus Müllen.
Carbon god at MPIP-Mainz. Müllen is the guy to turn to for anything on hexabenzocoronenes and related carbon-rich discotics. Does some of the craziest syntheses you'll see in materials chemistry (such as giant 222 carbon disks). The things he makes that contain just carbon and hydrogen are a thing of beauty.

4. Robert Grubbs.
The Man. Few research groups have had have had as much of an impact on so many aspects of chemsitry as the Grubbs group. The development of Grubbs' catalysts was spurred in part by the desire to find new polymerization methods- ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP), developed by the Grubbs group, is one of the cornerstones of living polymerization methods. Plus his catalysts are so pretty- an important consideration for this list.

3. Sir Fraser Stoddart.
So much of chemistry is difficult to explain to non-scientists. In most cases, the eyes tend to glaze over after about a minute. It's not hard to see what Sir Fraser is doing, though, especially considering the mad Photoshop skills that appear to be abundant among his group members. Rotaxanes, catenanes, templated synthesis and multicoloured dyes- all of these things we enjoy. In addition to having been knighted, he also has the (dubious) honour of being the main victim of Ψ*Ψ's literature stalking. (Not to be confused with actual stalking. Lit stalking is harmless.)

2. Richard Smalley.
Ever heard of C60? Smalley shared the Nobel for its discovery (along with Curl and Kroto). He was also one of the foremost advocates of nanotechnology. Notice the "was"--he passed away in 2005. A recent C&EN had a cover story dedicated to him, though. (Be sure to note the author on that.) Smalley had a debate on nanotechnology with Eric Drexler a few years back in C&EN as well, and it's safe to say Drexler got pwn3d (in Excimer's opinion, anyway).

1. George Whitesides.
It shouldn't be surprising that Whitesides tops the list. He's done a bit of everything, and although his current focus seems more biological than we'd like, it's impossible to overlook his contributions. On top of that, the tremendous impact of his science is sometimes best explained in pictures. Through the pictures, one can see the elegant simplicity that inspires the things his group develops, and this focus on simplicity has in part propelled him to be among the most creative and prolific chemists of our generation.

Honorable mentions: Tim Swager, Chad Mirkin, Tobin Marks, Jean-Marie Lehn, Stephanie Kwolek.

*We're not really sorry.

PS--Disregard the author listed at the bottom. Both of us wrote this :)


Ashutosh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashutosh said...

jim tour at rice, another notable material man

paul said...

You guys and I have very different views of what a materials chemist is/does. I call most of those guys organic chemists. My list would have Wallace Carothers, Egon Orowan, and Hermann Staudinger, unless you're only interested in living people. Then, maybe I'd start with Langer and Somorjai.

Excimer said...

We wanted to restrict the list to living people, but gave a nod to Smalley regardless. Most of these people are, in fact, organic chemists, but hey, that's who we know. Both Langer and Somorjai do great work, and I'd include Irving Langmuir on any dead people list. But this list was not meant to be objective, either. ;)

Ψ*Ψ said...

Well, our list was intended to consist of the living, but we couldn't leave Smalley off. If we weren't so interested in people who were still alive, then Langmuir, Staudinger and Carothers would likely have made the list. No biology here, which rules out a LOT of people.
In our defense, though, check out the blue text near the top of the sidebar and the last two words in the title of the post. ;)

paul said...

Yeah, I figured y'all included the 'we like' to stave off any attacks. Now I'm just going to sit back and wait for the post on the top 5 materials chemists you *don't* like!

Excimer said...

I have a few words for a couple people on *that* list, Paul, believe you me.

synthetic environment said...

Great! This saves time, only have to link to this list now in order to have another Top 5 post :-)

Great idea to have some honorable mentions.

Uncle Al said...

Grubbs' catalyst! Benzoin condensation with arene aldehydes, oxidize to benzils, methylenate benzils to diolefins,

Current Org. Syn. 2(2) 231 (2005) - Julia, Peterson, Nysted, Tebbe (yes!), Petasis, Takeda, Takai

Grubbs' catalyst, extrude ethylene (ADMET living polymerization) and polymerize to decorated polyacetylenes, dope to room temperature exciton superconductors, [-C(Ar)=(Ar)C-]n.

WA Little, Phys. Rev. 134 A1416-A1424 (1964)

Cheap and crappy model polymer, add pi-stacking and fluorescence, then ligand rotation into core conjugation (stereograms). Diblock or redox gradient polymer is a supercon diode. Y-junction is a supercon transistor. OOH-rah!

mevans said...

Hah, I posted about Stoddart's research after reading this, but before noticing that he was on the list. The subconscious at work, I suppose. UCLA's work with molecular architectures is flat-out awesome.

Andrew's Goggle said...

The domain *.blogspot.com have been, again, blocked by GWF for several weeks. Now it works again.

As to the range of 'material science' , or whether these guys are material scientists, I generally agree with the authors. Material science is the study of the relationship between structure and function. Compared with the conventional organic chemists, we not only synthesize the structure, but also examine its function. All these guys design the structures their molecules to synthesize so that they can exhibit the intended function, so they are all material scientists.

David Eaton said...

I like the work done by the charge transfer salt guys like Klaus Bechgaard, especially the organic superconductors, but I like your list.

Damn, I could list a few that I don't like, too. (Hmm, if obscurity weren't a barrier to inclusion, I might appear on lists like that, too.)

sushi said...
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