Letters to the editor
Stereoregular poly(vinyl ethers)
I read with interest in the April 8 issue of C&EN (page 5) the item about the elegant work of Frank A. Leibfarth and Aaron J. Teator on the synthesis of stereoregular poly(vinyl ethers). It would be a pity if current chemists remained ignorant of the pioneering work of Calvin Schildknecht in 1947 on these polymers, referred to briefly by Geoffrey W. Coates in C&EN in his comments on this new work. Schildknecht’s tale is well told by Frank McMillan in his classic book The Chain Straighteners. At the Gordon Research Conference on Organic High Polymers in June 1947, Schildknecht told of the crystalline polymer he made from vinyl isobutyl ether, and he actually proposed that the crystallinity stemmed from a stereoregular orientation of the side chain. The orientations he proposed were what we would call nowadays isotactic or syndiotactic. McMillan reports that he discussed Schildknecht’s proposal with renowned polymer scientist Herman Mark, who was present. Mark thought Schildknecht’s ideas interesting but not convincing. If Schildknecht’s employer, General Aniline and Film, had developed the polymer, the era of stereoregular polymers might have occurred 7 years earlier, with Schildknecht replacing Giulio Natta as Nobel Prize winner.
E. Thomas Strom