The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
In this interview Vladimir Prelog discusses his long and distinguished career as an organic chemist. He begins by recalling his early education in Yugoslavia, doctoral studies in Prague, and first job as a chemist. He returned to Yugoslavia in 1935 to teach at the Technical Faculty of the University of Zagreb. The interview continues with Prelog describing how he finessed the problems of war and foreign occupation by emigrating to Switzerland, where he began a 35-year affiliation with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). The central portion of the interview contains Prelog's reflections on his research at the ETH. This includes work with the chemistry of natural products and with stereochemistry, and his creation (with Cahn and Ingold) of the CIP system for defining absolute configuration. The interview concludes with Prelog speaking about the growing complexity and expense of chemical research, his relationships with American chemists, his current research, and the future of chemistry and chemical education.
|1929||Prague Institute of Technology||DSc||Chemistry|
Laboratory of G.J. Driza
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule)
Werner Medal and Prize, Swiss Chemical Society
Stas Medal, Belgian Chemical Society
Medal of Honor, Rice University
Marcel Benoist Prize, Switzerland
Hanus Medal, Czechoslovakian Chemical Society
A. W. von Hofmann Memorial Medal, German Chemical Society
Davy Medal, Royal Society of London
Roger Adams Award, American Chemical Society
Paul Karrer Award, University of Zürich
Nobel Prize for Chemistry
Order of the Yugoslavian Star
Order of the Rising Sun, Japan
Emil Votocek Medal, Chemical-Technical University, Prague
Table of Contents
Witnesses political events in Yugoslavia. Education in Zagreb. Early interest in chemistry. Publishes chemistry paper at age of fifteen. Father's occupation. Influence of history.
Early chemical engineering. Personal philosophy of chemistry. Finishes studies in short time. Dissertation. Natural products chemistry. Stereochemistry.
Preparation of compounds not commercially available. Quinine research. University of Zagreb. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Swiss Chemical Society. Helvetica Chimica Acta.
European chemists who emigrated to the United States. Organ extract research. Alkaloid research. Adamantane research. Robert Woodward. Creation of the Woodward Institute in Basel.
Initial involvement. Collaboration with Cahn and Ingold. The CIP system. Conformations. Key people in stereochemistry.
Awarded Nobel Prize. Courses taught in organic chemistry. Administrative duties. Colleagues. Funding. Research. Collaboration among industry, research chemists, and microbiologists.
Comparison of early and present periods. Relationships with American chemists. Current interests. Future of chemistry and chemical engineering. Preservation of letters and manuscripts.
About the Interviewer
Tonja A. Koeppel received a master’s degree in chemistry from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 1944. Since then she has written about chemistry, done research, and taught college chemistry. Dr. Koeppel is also a historian of chemistry. In 1973 she earned a PhD degree in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania. She is especially interested in the development of organic chemistry in the 19th and early 20th centuries.