Derek Barton

Derek Barton
Sir Derek Barton
Born 8 September 1918(1918-09-08)
Gravesend, England
Died 16 March 1998(1998-03-16) (aged 79)
College Station, Texas, USA
Nationality United Kingdom
Fields Chemistry
Institutions Imperial College London,
Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles,
Texas A&M University
Alma mater Imperial College London
Doctoral advisor Ian Heilbron
Known for Barton reaction
Barton decarboxylation
Barton-McCombie deoxygenation
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry,
Copley Medal

Sir Derek Harold Richard Barton FRS[1] (8 September 1918 – 16 March 1998) was a British organic chemist and Nobel Prize laureate.[2]


Barton was born to William Thomas and Maude Henrietta Barton. He attended Tonbridge School and in 1938 he entered Imperial College London, where he graduated in 1940 and obtained his Ph.D. degree in Organic Chemistry in 1942. From then to 1944 he was a government research chemist, from 1944 to 1945 he was with Albright and Wilson in Birmingham. He then became assistant lecturer in the Department of Chemistry of Imperial College, and from 1946 to 1949 he was ICI Research Fellow. During 1949 and 1950 he was Visiting Lecturer in the Chemistry of Natural Products, at Harvard University, and was then appointed Reader in Organic Chemistry and, in 1953, Professor at Birkbeck College. In 1955 he became Regius Professor of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, in 1957 he was appointed Professor of Organic Chemistry at Imperial College.

In 1950, Professor Barton showed that organic molecules could be assigned a preferred conformation based upon results accumulated by chemical physicists, in particular by Odd Hassel. Using this new technique of conformational analysis, he later determined the geometry of many other natural product molecules. In 1969, Barton shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Odd Hassel for "contributions to the development of the concept of conformation and its application in chemistry."

In 1958 Prof. Barton was Arthur D. Little Visiting Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and in 1959 Karl Folkers Visiting Professor at the Universities of Illinois and Wisconsin. In 1960 he was Visiting Professor at the University of California (Berkeley), spending much of his time with the W.H. Dauben Group. The same year he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[3]

In 1954 he was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society and the International Academy of Science, in 1956 he became Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; in 1965 he was appointed member of the Council for Scientific Policy. He was knighted in 1972 but chose to be known as Sir Derek only in Britain. In 1978 he became Director of the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles (ICSN - Gif Sur-Yvette) in France.

In 1986 he became Distinguished Professor at Texas A&M University and held this position for 12 years until his death.

As well as for his work on conformation, his name is remembered in a number of reactions in organic chemistry such as the Barton reaction, the Barton decarboxylation, and the Barton-McCombie deoxygenation.

He married three times, and had a son by his first marriage. He died in College Station, Texas.


  1. ^ Ley, S. V.; Myers, R. M. (2002). "Sir Derek Harold Richard Barton. 8 September 1918 - 16 March 1998". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 48: 1. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2002.0001. JSTOR 3650246.  edit
  2. ^ Albert Cotton, F. (2000). "Derek H. R. Barton, 8 September 1918 · 16 March 1998". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 144 (3): 292–296. doi:10.2307/1515591.  edit
  3. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 

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