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Robert Boyd

February 13, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 7

Jaan Pesti's letter reminiscing about his worn 197 4 copy of Robert T. Morrison and Robert N. Boyd's "Organic Chemistry" (C&EN, Dec. 19, 2005, page 6) brought me back to the time a generation earlier in 1951 when I literally wore Professor Boyd's pants. As a first-year graduate student at New York University on my way to a Ph.D., I managed to knock over a 2-gal bottle of dimethylaniline in a basement stockroom. My pants and shoes were covered with this toxic material when I gingerly tapped on Boyd's office door. After an incredulous glance, he whisked out an old pair of his pants from a cabinet and bid me to quickly change. Regrettably, he had no extra pair of shoes. Boyd was of small stature and I must have been a sight in the subway, pants halfway up to my knees, shoes reeking of the foul vapor.

This was an exciting time when the discoveries of the German organic chemists during World War II were just becoming available in translation. In his graduate organic chemistry course, Boyd made available a single advance copy of J. Walter Reppe's "Acetylene Chemistry" for students to share. Boyd was a superb and impassioned lecturer who enthralled this physical chemist-to-be. With Boyd as lecturer and Robert Morrison as organic synthesis laboratory supervisor, it's a wonder that I held fast to my choice of physical chemistry. But that is another story and another fine professor.

J. Paul Pemsler
Lexington, Mass.


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