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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 91
HERBERT CHARLES BROWN
May 22, 1912–December 19, 2004
BY EI-ICHI NEGISHI
HERBERT CHARLES BROWN, R. B. Wetherill Research Professor Emeritus of Purdue University and one of the truly pioneering giants in the field of organic-organometallic chemistry, died of a heart attack on December 19, 2004, at age 92. As it so happened, this author visited him at his home to discuss with him an urgent chemistry-related matter only about 10 hours before his death. For his age he appeared well, showing no sign of his sudden death the next morning. His wife, Sarah Baylen Brown, 89, followed him on May 29, 2005. They were survived by their only child, Charles A. Brown of Hitachi Ltd. and his family.
H. C. Brown shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1979 with G. Wittig of Heidelberg, Germany. Their pioneering explorations of boron chemistry and phosphorus chemistry, respectively, were recognized. Aside from several biochemists, including V. du Vigneaud in 1955, H. C. Brown was only the second American organic chemist to win a Nobel Prize behind R. B. Woodward, in 1965. His several most significant contributions in the area of boron chemistry include (1) codiscovery of sodium borohyride (1972, pp. 39-49) with his Ph.D. and postdoctoral mentor, H. I. Schlesinger, which helped modernize organoboron chemistry; (2) systematic exploration and methodological development of the reduction of a