Breakthrough Award To 'Organic Reactions' | August 10, 2009 Issue - Vol. 87 Issue 32 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 87 Issue 32 | pp. 43-44 | Awards
Issue Date: August 10, 2009

Breakthrough Award To 'Organic Reactions'

Department: ACS News
A Citation for Chemical Breakthrough award was presented to "Organic Reactions" at the National Organic Symposium. Seeman (from left), Denmark, and McElwee-White.
Credit: Paul Wender
A Citation for Chemical Breakthrough award was presented to "Organic Reactions" at the National Organic Symposium. Seeman (from left), Denmark, and McElwee-White.
Credit: Paul Wender

The well-known and loved book series "Organic Reactions" received the ACS Division of the History of Chemistry's (HIST) Citation for Chemical Breakthrough award on June 10 at the 41st National Organic Symposium in Boulder, Colo. "Organic Reactions," one of Roger Adams' enduring legacies, was originally conceptualized in 1939, and the first of its now 70 volumes appeared in 1942. Scott E. Denmark of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and current editor-in-chief of the series accepted the award from Jeffrey I. Seeman, the award's founder and HIST representative. Denmark then gave a short presentation of the origin, history, and accomplishments of "Organic Reactions" over the past seven decades.

The Citation for Chemical Breakthrough award, now in its fourth year, honors publications, patents, and books that have been revolutionary in concept, broad in scope, and long-term in impact. Previous books receiving the award include Linus Pauling's "Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals" and Alfred Werner's "Anorganischen Chemie."

"Most awards are given to individuals," explains Seeman, a visiting senior research scholar at the University of Richmond, in Virginia. "We intend to honor, as well as celebrate, chemistry's greatest achievements. These breakthrough awards go to the institution where the work was performed. The plaques incorporate the first page of the paper, or for a book, its title page. So when students, visitors, and faculty walk down the halls of their universities and see these plaques, they will be reminded of the great science that was done and is still being done," Seeman says.

The series provides "critical discussions of the more important synthetic reactions," Denmark says. " 'Organic Reactions' is unique in the chemical literature in the way it presents an authoritative analysis of the topic reaction accompanied by comprehensive tables that organize all published examples of the reaction being reviewed." One measure of its success is that more than 350,000 volumes have been sold.

Editors-in-chief who followed after Adams' retirement include Arthur C. Cope, William G. Dauben, Andrew Kende, Leo Paquette, and Larry Overman. At its inception, the role of "Organic Reactions" was to compile an authoritative summary of preparatively useful organic reactions from the primary literature. However, as abstracting services entered the electronic age, the challenge for the practitioner was no longer to locate all of the literature on the subject, but rather, how to critically and efficiently digest it.

" 'Organic Reactions' chapters are much more than a surfeit of primary references; they constitute a distillation of an avalanche of information into the knowledge needed to correctly implement a reaction," Denmark says. "It is in this capacity, namely to provide timely, focused, scholarly, and comprehensive overviews of a given transformation, that 'Organic Reactions' takes on even greater significance for the practice of chemical experimentation in the 21st century."

Another measure of its success is the special relationship the series has with its first and sole publisher, Wiley InterScience. Recently, Organic Reactions Inc. and Wiley, in conjunction with the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry, announced that division members will be allowed to access and download up to 10 chapters from "Organic Reactions" at no cost through Oct. 31. "We are always seeking ways to add value to our division membership package," comments Lisa McElwee-White, the current division chair. "Many members have already expressed their appreciation."

The impact of the series extends well beyond the value of the books themselves. Profits from the sale of the books are being used to enhance research and educational activities in the organic chemistry community at large. Since 1959, Organic Reactions Inc., in association with Organic Syntheses Inc., has sponsored the Roger Adams Award, an ACS national award that recognizes and encourages outstanding contributions to research in organic chemistry. "I am especially pleased to present the citation award to 'Organic Reactions' at this year's National Organic Symposium and to be on the schedule just after Andy Streitweiser received this year's Roger Adams Award," Seeman said. "We've now come full circle, honoring Roger Adams' 'Organic Reactions' at the same time that the Adams Award honors today's eminent organic chemists."


Linda Raber compiled this week's section. Announcements of awards may be sent to Linda Wang at

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