The Sceptical Chymist | I love Paris

Published in Chemistry

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No, I don’t mean Ms Hilton. I’m at the Tenth Tetrahedron Symposium in Paris, celebrating 50 years of Tetrahedron Letters with a stunning programme of speakers – a real who’s who of organic chemists. If you ever have the chance to attend a conference in Paris, you’ve got to go, if only because it’s a foodie’s paradise. The three-course lunch was sensational, and the mini-desserts they’ve been dishing out during coffee breaks are to die for.

But I digress. Let me tell you about the chemistry. Catalysis was the unofficial theme of the morning’s talks. A highlight for me was Masakatsu Shibasaki’s discussion of his work developing asymmetric ‘two-centre’ catalysts (so-called because they contain two different metal atoms). I love hearing how original ideas extend into different directions, and this was a great example of that, as Masakatsu described how the discovery of catalysts for asymmetric Michael reactions led on to the development of catalysts for cyclopropanations, then for epoxide-formations and ultimately for making 2,2-disubstituted oxetanes (Angewandte Chemie subscribers can see the oxetane work here).

After lunch, a smorgasbord of treats awaited us (and not just the petits fours). Peter Vollhardt described unpublished work on the chemistry of phenylenes, including a fascinating description of haptotropism in their cobalt complexes. Michael Krische gave an overview of his work developing carbon-carbon bond-forming reactions via hydrogenations – appropriately enough for the venue, this work was inspired by seminal work from the French chemists Victor Grignard and Paul Sabatier. To my mind, this is a brilliant strategy for C-C bond formations – a minireview in Angewandte about catalytic carbonyl addition through transfer hydrogenation, written by Krische, can be found here (but subscribers only, I‘m afraid).

And that’s not to mention typically mesmerising talks from the likes of George Whitesides and Jean-Marie Lehn (who had a slight disagreement regarding a well-used model of molecular recognition – but more on that tomorrow).

I could go on – but for now, I’ll sign off with an ‘au revoir’.


Andrew Mitchinson (Senior Editor, Nature)

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