Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Hugh S. Taylor, Princeton University
Heidelberger had helped to synthesize cyclooctatetraene, the next higher analog of benzene (consisting of a ring with eight
carbon atoms and four double bonds), during a year of postdoctoral study (1911-12) in the laboratory of the 1915 Nobel Laureate,
Richard Willstatter, at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. His research with Willstatter on cyclooctatetraene
was controversial, and was questioned as late as the 1940s by Hugh S. Taylor and Charles D. Hurd. Heidelberger, however,
strongly defended his results, as documented in this letter, pointing out that while Taylor and Hurd showed that cyclooctatetraene
resinifies and degrades at high temperatures, he had worked in cold temperatures continuously for 24 hours to synthesize a
colorless liquid that was both stable and reactive. Heidelberger and Willstatter's results stood, and as a consequence
of their work cyclooctatetraene became a widely used intermediate in organic chemistry.
Number of Image Pages:
1 (30,132 Bytes)
1939-09-09 (September 9, 1939)
Taylor, Hugh S.
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
The Making of an Immunologist: Heidelberger's Years at the Rockefeller Institute, 1912-1927
Letter from Hugh S. Taylor, Princeton University to Michael Heidelberger (November 4, 1939)
Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Hugh S. Taylor, Princeton University (November 7, 1939)
Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Charles D. Hurd, Northwestern University (November 8, 1939)
Letter from Charles D. Hurd, Northwestern University to Michael Heidelberger (November 29, 1939)
Letter from Richard Willstatter to Michael Heidelberger (March 27, 1940)
I was very much interested in your paper in the May Journal on the Dehydrogenation of Cyclotene. I am taking the liberty
of enclosing an old reprint in view of your conclusion that Willstatter probably did not obtain cyclooctatetraene. While
it is quite probable the earlier catalytic experiments did not result in this substance, they later, with Waser and myself
certainly gave us the expected compound.