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Re: R. B. Woodward’s 100th

May 1, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 18

Readers gathered online to honor the memory of the organic chemistry legend.

I had the great honor of showing slides for Dr. Woodward at a National Organic Chemistry symposium in the mid-1970’s held at West Virginia University. Yes, the blue suit, the cigarettes—all were on display!

But Dr. Woodward was a true gentleman (and as a synthetic organic chemist myself, my hero!), even when I broke with a protocol I didn’t know of—no one asked questions after his talks. But I did, and he was most gracious in answering a question of a fourth-year grad student.

Sadly, his death at age 62 could hardly be called surprising, being as heavy a smoker and drinker as he was. If only he had survived a couple decades longer ...

Art Springsteen

I am not connected to science in any way, but due to the goodness of my husband—Prof. HSP Rao—who happens to be a chemistry professor and an ardent chemistry fan, I was made aware of two articles: one on Woodward’s style of writing (Jeffrey I. Seeman’s “Woodward’s Words” [Angew. Chem. Intl. Ed. 2016, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201600811]) and the present one.

Being a professor of literature, I envy the field of chemistry for having had such a creative and intellectual artist. I can’t help but feel in his words (“physical, visual, tangible, sensuous things”) the echo of Keats’s statements, “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard/Are sweeter” and “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

The most important thing in learning and amidst the portals of knowledge is the passion one has no matter who you are and what field you are in. Thank you for the beautiful article.

H. Kalpana Rao


April 17, page 30, and April 24, page 45: An ACS Publications ad appearing in two issues contained an unfortunate typo. ACS Central Science Editor-in-Chief Carolyn Bertozzi is a professor at Stanford University, not Standford University.



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