Derek H. R. Barton
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1969
Born: 8 September 1918, Gravesend, United Kingdom
Died: 16 March 1998, College Station, TX, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Imperial College, London, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for their contributions to the development of the concept of conformation and its application in chemistry."
Prize share: 1/2
In nature organisms are composed of an enormously varied number of chemical compounds, with the element carbon as a common component. The binding energy between atoms in carbon compounds determines their structure, but the structures are not completely rigid. They are flexible to a certain degree. Consequently, molecules can assume different conformations, which has ramifications for their way of reacting with other substances. In the 1950s Derek Barton charted conformations for a number of substances with biological importance, such as bile acids, sex hormones, cortisone and cholesterol.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.