Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Derek H. R. Barton
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.