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Alan Katritzky, who in 2014 died at the age of 85, was a pioneer in the field of heterocyclic chemistry, the study of molecules possessing rings of carbon atoms along with other elements.
For 60 years, his research was reported in more than 2,300 papers and 200 books – a prodigious output that proved to be of great value to the academic community as well as to the pharmaceutical and agrichemical industries. He maintained his remarkable output until a few days before his death.
Alan was born into a family of Polish immigrants in London. Evacuated in 1940 to Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, he acquired his passion for chemistry at Wisbech high school, preparing his first heterocyclic compound, the barbiturate drug Veronal, on his 15th birthday.
After gaining a first-class degree in chemistry, followed by a doctorate, at Oxford University, he moved to Cambridge University in 1957, becoming a foundation fellow of Churchill College.
In 1962, at the unusually early age of 34, he was appointed professor of chemistry and founding head of the school of chemical sciences at the newly established University of East Anglia in Norwich.
There he rapidly established an undergraduate teaching programme and a strong postgraduate research school, fostering close contacts with the chemical industry. Such practices have since become widely established.
In 1980, he left Norwich to become chair of chemistry at the University of Florida in the US, where he founded a Centre for Heterocyclic Compounds to encourage postgraduate study and to find industrial applications for discoveries in the field. The Katritzky family funded charitable foundations to support students and founded a free online journal, called Arkivoc, that provides researchers in the developing world with a vehicle to publish their work in.
Alan was forceful, direct and resolute in his professional life, and his commitment to his chosen subject was total. In his personal relationships, he was compassionate and warm.
He is survived by his wife, Linde, his children Rupert, Margaret, Erika and Freda, and three grandchildren, Martin, Eric and Elisabeth.
Al Padwa will provide a tribute to Professor Alan Katritzky’s remarkable career in heterocyclic chemistry. In part 2, the chemistry of metal carbene complexes as a method to generate 1,3-dipoles is discussed. This approach bestows chemists with an exceptionally fertile ground for designing and developing new stereoselective bond construction for application toward the synthesis of various alkaloids. Due to their lability, metal carbene complexes are usually generated in situ from their corresponding diazo precursors prior to use. The reaction of a-diazo carbonyl compounds with transition metals such as rhodium(II) carboxylates constitutes a particularly powerful method for generating synthetically useful electrophilic carbene complexes. Earlier work by our group has shown that the rhodium(II) catalyzed reaction of 2-diazo-3-oxobutanoates bearing tethered p-bonds represents a synthetically useful protocol for the construction of a variety of novel polycyclic skeletons. The Rh(II)-catalyzed reactions of the related 2-diazo-2-(1H-indol-2-yl)acetate system has now been examined as a potential route toward scandine, a member of the melodinus family of alkaloids. Attack of the neighboring carbonyl oxygen atom onto the rhodium carbenoid center produces a cyclic 1,3-dipole that undergoes cycloaddition with a tethered alkenyl group. The resulting cycloadduct corresponds to a potential intermediate in a planned synthesis of scandine