Clayton H. Heathcock

Professor Emeritus
  • Born 1936
  • B.Sc. Abilene Christian College, Texas (1958)
  • Ph.D. Organic Chemistry, University of Colorado (1963)
  • Postdoctoral, Columbia University (1963-64)
  • National Science Foundation Fellow (1961-64)
  • Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow (1967-69)
  • Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist (1978)
  • Guest Professor, ETH, Zurich (1971)
  • University of Erlangen-Nurnberg (1978)
  • Miller Research Professor, UCB (1983-84 and 1991-92)
  • Chairman, Division of Organic Chemistry, American Chemical Society (1985)
  • Chairman, National Institutes of Health Medicinal Chemistry Study Section (1981-83)
  • Chairman, Gordon Research Conference on Stereochemistry (1986)
  • Chair, American Association for the Advancement of Science (1991)
  • Editor-in Chief, Organic Syntheses (1986)
  • Journal of Organic Chemistry (1989-99)
  • Scintific Advisory Committee of Abbott Laboratories (1986-97)
  • Ernest Guenther Award (ACS) (1986)
  • ACS Award for Creative Work in Organic Synthesis (1990)
  • A.C. Cope Scholar (1990)
  • Prelog Medal, ETH (1991)
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991)
  • National Academy of Sciences (1995)
  • Centenary Medal, Royal Society of Chemistry (1996)
  • H. C. Brown Award (ACS) (2002)
  • Paul Gassman Award for Distinguished Service (ACS) (2004)

Organic Chemistry — Organic synthesis is the utilization of laboratory skill to bring to fruition the product of our imagination.

Professor Heathcock has long been fascinated with organic reactions, understanding their intimate personalities, and applying them for the construction of intricate structures. He and his students and postdoctoral coworkers typically engaged in 'multistep synthesis.' The synthetic goals were complex, polycyclic natural products, often possessing unusual biological activity. However, the purpose of the research was not just to prepare compounds for biological or pharmacological testing, but rather to learn something new about the creative process of synthesis design. For this reason, the synthetic targets were chosen because it is thought that their novel structures were likely to lead the experimentalist to unusual chemistry. The goal was to use sound mechanistic reasoning to invent multistep syntheses that were sufficiently non-obvious that they would serve as object lessons for other scientists, and thereby contribute to a general elevation of the level of sophistication of the science of large-molecule synthesis.