[Note: An announcement is posted in this blog on 27 January, 2008 concerning a gathering at CSU on 22 Feb., 2008.]

This morning I learned of the passing of one the great pioneers of asymmetric organic synthesis- Dr. Albert I. Meyers, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Colorado State University, on October 23, 2007.  I do not know the cause of death this moment, but he did suffer from heart problems for quite some time.

Professor Meyers got his PhD at New York University under Ritter in 1957 and later did a post-doc with E.J. Corey. He wrote a book on heterocyclic chemistry and got the highest synthetic chemistry honor of all- a named reaction; The Meyers Aldehyde Synthesis.

Meyers was best known for his developmental work with stereodirecting, chiral auxiliaries. The Meyers group developed asymmetric C-C bond forming reactions with oxazolines, formamidines, and bicyclic lactams. Enantiomeric carboxylic acids, amines, cyclopentenones, etc, were prepared by his group. Numerous natural products, including Maytansine, were the result of methods development from this group.

While asymmetric catalysis would eventually capture more attention later on, the early work with chiral auxiliaries helped to develop a more solid understanding of the mechanics of asymmetric induction or chiral transfer as some put it. The specialized vocabulary of stereochemistry was the norm within the group. Napkins at the local drinking establishments were often covered with scribbled drawings of diastereomeric transition states and arrow pushing over chemical structures.  AIM in particular had a knack for 3-D chalk sketches of chiral alkaloids.

The Meyers group at Colorado State in Ft. Collins was typically rather large and quite international. There was a time in the 1980’s and 1990’s when a special magic permeated the department. This was the era of Jack Norton, Louis Hegedus, John Stille, and Al Meyers- heavy hitters all and located at a northern Colorado Ag school.  It was a time of organometallic chemistry and asymmetric synthesis.  For the student, it was an exciting time and place to be doing chemistry. I count myself as extremely fortunate to have been there.

His love for his mistress- chemistry (as he put it)- was all consuming.  AIM had a sort of panache that generated enthusiam among the group. AIM loved the science and the people of chemistry.  Lunch with AIM was story time. He was very convivial and would regale his audience with amusing anecdotes of his travels and brushes with some of the larger-than-life characters in our field.

The Meyers group was a colorful lot. Multiple languages and strident voices could be heard in the lab against the tapping of chalk on the blackboard. AIM loved nothing more than to be engaged in a blackboard discussion with his sharpest students trying to noodle out some mechanistic or stereochemical problem.

He was a great guy and we’ll all miss him.

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