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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

Nobel co-recipient Georg Wittig

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!


Brown Herbert's parents were Charles Brovarnik and Pearl Gorinstein, Ukrainian Jews. Elder to him was his sister Ann born in 1909 in England. His younger sisters Sophie and Riva were born in 1916 and 1918 in the USA. In the USA his paternal grandfather's name had been anglicized to Brown. So Herbert's family name also became Brown.

When Herbert was about 14 years of age, his father passed away due to some sort of infection in 1926.

Herbert Brown attended Crane Junior College. An instructor, Dr. Nicholas Cheronis, accepted students in his laboratory, enabling them to continue their studies on their own. He met a fellow student, Sarah Baylen. Until the arrival of Herbert, Sarah had been the brightest student in chemistry at Craig. Later in her writing, 'Remembering HCB', she describes initially hating his guts. Upon realizing that she could not out beat him, she decided to join him. This turned out to be everlastingly delightful to Herbert for he fell in love with Sarah.

Wright Junior College opened in 1934. Herbert was one of nine students in the first graduating class in 1935. In his year book, Sarah predicted that he would be a Nobel Laureate!

Later Herbert Brown and Sarah Baylen were married. They had a son and were married for 67 years until his death.

Herbert Brown
Photo Purdue University. Painting Tim Tompkins PaintHistory.com

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