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Herbert C Brown Ph.D.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1979
The President's National Medel of Sciences - Physical Sciences, 1969

Organic Chemist. Development of use of boron into important reagents in organic synthesis. School, advanced several times, graduating at 12; refused further advancement, avoiding being sister's classmate.

Graduating, Depression years, future wife Sarah gave him gift, Stock's 'Hydrides of Boron and Silicon' because cheapest chemistry book! Led to Nobel Prize!


When Herbert Brown graduated from high school, the Depression had commenced. He had not hoped to attend college. He was unable to find a permanent position. Studying, unlike odd jobs he could obtain, was very attractive. Hearing that one could earn a good living as an electrical engineer and intending to major in that field, he enrolled in college. However, he took chemistry. Chemistry fascinated him and he remained a chemist for the rest of his life.

In 1933 when Brown had completed just one semester at Crane Junior College, the school was headed to close for lack of funds. He then attended one or two courses at Lewis Institute night school. During this time he earned a living as a part-time shoe clerk.

Herbert Brown
Drawing: Newton Llorente

Name: Herbert Charles Brown
Birth: 22 May 1912, London, United Kingdom
Death: 19 December 2004, Lafayette, IN, USA
Institution: Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA
Award: "for their development of the use of boron- and phosphorus-containing compounds, respectively, into important reagents in organic synthesis"
Subject: Organic chemistry
Portion of cash: 1/2
Inventory of H.C. Brown papers
Honoring H.C. Brown
Defining Moment