33 No. 5
Once upon a time, a young man named Ed from Springfield, Massachusetts, had a striking encounter with nature and became fascinated with butterflies. To his eyes, their wings’ colors were magic. So, he embarked upon a life-time search to elucidate the structure of these pigments and discovered that their chemistry holds a key to the betterment of the human condition . . .
This story, continued here, comes to us from Edward C. Taylor, A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Organic Chemistry Emeritus at Princeton University. Taylor’s enduring interest in heterocyclic chemistry lead to numerous new synthetic methodologies and new compounds that are potent inhibitors of cell growth, exhibiting therapeutic activity against some tumors. One of these compounds is now a cancer drug approved around the world for treatment of mesothelioma and second-line lung cancer.
This story is surely one that can inspire young people and generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry. The story is one of fascination, frustration, and good fortune. There was no way to tell back in the 1940s that a fascination with the wing pigments of butterflies would turn into such a life-saving drug. And while not every chemist will see the fruits of his/her research translated into something as striking as a life-saving drug, they all have the power to contribute in their own way to the advancement of chemistry for the benefit of mankind. As we celebrate the International Year of Chemistry 2011, we are reminded that the challenges are important and numerous. May the IYC motto, “Chemistry—our life, our future,” be a message of empowerment to a new generation of scientists.
As of now, Taylor and his colleagues are still active with research projects focused on the design and synthesis of new inhibitors and studies aimed at understanding toxicity. Set in the magnificent Frick Chemistry Laboratory at Princeton, they are busy researchers and, yet, one could say that . . . they all lived happily ever after . . .
last modified 12 September 2011.
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