Remembering Breslow and Stork
As a Rahway, N.J.-born chemist, I had heard positive things about Ronald Breslow in Rahway High School, where I was six years behind him. After receiving my Ph.D. in chemistry, I have since followed his wonderfully productive career with interest and a bit of positive envy.
G. Paul Richter
Dr. Breslow was a great undergraduate teacher and an inspiration for study of organic chemistry. Besides knowing Ron as an undergraduate student, I had the honor of postdocing with him from 1970 to ’72 where we struggled to produce a stabilized cyclopropenyl anion and never succeeded. When reactions “failed,” Ron always had an explanation for what went wrong. At group meetings, when someone proposed a problem, he was almost always the first to solve it and without use of pencil or paper. He was a kind mentor and brilliant mind. It was an honor to know him and to be his student.
Kenneth C Ehrlich
As a student of Gilbert Stork and friend of Ron, I am deeply saddened by the news of their passing. I will always remember Ron’s very good sense of humor and friendliness to me as a graduate student at Columbia University. Sincere sympathy to Esther and family.
I remember Dr. Breslow entertaining parties with his wonderful piano playing. He was a kind man who would even speak to chemists’ spouses, something many other professors would not do. He was wonderful to women. I found him to be a true human being. At one of his 80th birthday parties, he was still gregarious, kind, and funny. His passing is particularly touching because he was a gentleman in all senses of the word; even under adverse conditions, he still maintained humanity and generosity, characteristics rarely seen in others of his stature. He also talked very proudly about his wife and daughters, significant people in their own spheres. He will be very much missed.
His passing is a great loss to the scientific community. One of the highlights of my career was the opportunity to study with Ron as a postdoctoral fellow in the early 1970s. The ideas he generated were continually stunning. Despite having a large group of graduate students and postdocs, he found the time to frequently and directly interact with each student. Undergraduate, graduate student, or postdoc, Ron delighted in the interaction with all. I was fortunate to interact with him multiple times after I left Columbia. I stopped by his office about three years ago and it was as if no time had passed. He was still as deeply engaged in solving important problems in chemistry and biochemistry as he had been 40 years earlier. His impact was so strong that it is difficult to imagine a world without him.
Dr. Breslow literally changed my life. I worked in his laboratory in 1964–65 as a “prep boy,” running syntheses for the graduate students and postdocs. I probably made more methylcyclopropenone than [any] other person on the planet, before or since. Even though I was the lowest of the low, Dr. Breslow included me in all the activities of his group. His group meetings were amazing. I learned more in them than I learned in most classes. Dr. Breslow also arranged for me to take classes at Columbia University. I had had three years at another college, but the classes at Columbia were on an entirely different level. One of the classes I took was biochemistry, taught by Dr. Breslow, in which I earned an A+. The entire experience transformed me from a C student to an A student. I later went on to earn my Ph.D. in chemistry, which I probably would not have done were it not for my time with Dr. Breslow. I can’t express enough my gratitude to and affection for this wonderful, caring human being.
Franklin P. Mason
Gilbert Stork was my Ph.D. thesis adviser in the chemistry department at Columbia University from 1962 to 1966. Gilbert deserves to be seated in the front row in the international pantheon of the great chemists of the 20th century. Beyond that, he was a wonderful family man, an understanding and respected mentor, and a fine gentleman to all who knew him. When comes such another?
Charles E. Miller
I took advanced organic synthesis with Gilbert in 1965. What impressed me the most is that he’d come into class sans notes, pick up a piece of chalk, put his hand to his forehead, and say “OK,” and proceed to give a perfectly presented one-hour lecture. Of course there were mechanisms for every reaction, etc., but the smoothness of it all always stuck with me. RIP Gilbert.