‘Top chemists’ continued

Since we published our previous post, Wavefunction has also written about the list, asking ‘Is the age of traditional organic synthesis over?’ He noticed that there are fewer organic chemists on the list than you might think, and certainly fewer than he’d expect from “any such list from the 50s through the 90s”, which “would have been dominated by organic chemists engaged in methodology and total synthesis”.

Would it? Michelle Francl managed to dig out a list of “”http://www.ccp14.ac.uk/ccp/web-mirrors/armel/www.cristal.org/1000chimistes.html">ISI’s 1000 Most Cited Chemists, 1981-June 1997".

Throwing the data through my trusty spreadsheet, I removed those with <50 papers in that period (as the latest THE table did) and ordered by average citations per paper to get this top 10:

BAX,A; 142.47

SMALLEY, RE; 108.92

CURL, RF; 95.2

BRUS, LE; 85.96

DEWAR, MJS; 81.52

HEHRE, WJ; 81.32

POPLE, JA; 79.8

ERNST, RR; 71.81

NUZZO, RG; 70.77

GROVES, JT; 69.37

I don’t really think any of those count as synthetic organic chemists. Looking at the list ordered by total citations doesn’t change that too much either (for what it’s worth the top 10 is: BAX, POPLE, SCHLEYER, ERNST, WHITESIDES, SCHAEFER, HUFFMAN, RHEINGOLD, SEEBACH, LEHN).

So, was there ever a “golden age of organic synthesis” where chemistry as a whole was dominated by the big beasts of synthesis? Or – to be fairly provocative – are organic chemists just a little insular and think that their bit of the chemistry kingdom is the only one that matters?

Neil (a solid-state inorganic chemist!)

Neil Withers (Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)