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Synthesis

Bruce Merrifield

August 21, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 34

Bruce Merrifield, who receivedthe 1984 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was an undergraduate buddy of mine at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the early 1940s. He died at my age of 84. His success exemplifies how diligent effort leads to success (C&EN, May 29, page 8).

A biochemistry major, he was often found in his rubber lab smock walking the chemistry building holding a sixtet pipette structure, part of the equipment for studying biochemical reactions in which reagents are added to hundreds of test tubes containing experimental cultures. He contentedly did the job, which he called "durking," whereas I, involved in physical chemistry, looked with disdain on repetitive efforts.

It was his nature to do the best he could in everything. When playing catch with tennis balls outside the chemistry building became a contest to see who could throw highest, it was he, not the biggest, though sinewy, who threw almost out of sight, while my tennis ball remained discouragingly visible. He learned much from his dad, whom I met at dinner at his home, who labored hard to provide the best for his family,

Bruce "went around" with Libby, and when most of us were happy-go-lucky about such things, Bruce knew what he wanted. Libby became Elizabeth Merrifield as soon as Bruce got his Ph.D. I still recall with fondness and envy the bridal kiss to me from his new wife.

I never saw him after he left to join Rockefeller Institute but was not surprised that his Nobel Prize stemmed from the initial synthesis of DNA using a mechanism he developed to do the many needed repetitive processes.

Leonard Greiner
Santa Ana, Calif.

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