Thursday, January 29, 2009

Molecules That Changed the World

We’ve got this wonderful, profusely illustrated book bought for the office, called Molecules That Changed the World, by K. C. Nicolaou and T. Montagnon. I’d say some of the molecules mentioned there (like LSD) change not so much the world per se but our perception of the world. Still, I’d recommend every chemistry or chemistry-related department/lab to have this book.

Molecules That Changed the World

On p. 42, it quotes Sir Robert Robinson’s wise words on the value of basic research (from his Nobel Lecture):
The synthesis of brazilin would have no industrial value; its biological importance is problematical, but it is worth while to attempt it for the sufficient reason that we have no idea how to accomplish the task. There is a close analogy between organic chemistry in its relation to biochemistry and pure mathematics in its relation to physics. In both disciplines it is in the course of attack of the most difficult problems, without consideration of eventual applications, that new fundamental knowledge is most certainly garnered.

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