Derek Barton


Derek H. R. Barton

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

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.

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