June In Paris

paris2Lovely Paris is where the journal Tetrahedron Letters is currently celebrating its 50th birthday, by means of a conference near the city’s famous catacombs. About 1000 chemists are in town, attracted by a seriously solid line-up of speakers, and, well, Paris in June.

Anyway, a back-in-the-day anecdote by E. J. Corey made it perfectly clear why he had the conference’s first speaker slot. In late 1958, much before his Nobel Prize, he was still a young prof at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Corey says he noticed an announcement that a journal called Tetrahedron Letters would be started. With a theoretical paper in hand that needed a home, Corey figured he’d try out the new journal. Lo and behold, his paper was accepted. A surprise came in 1959 when he got a complimentary copy of the inaugural edition of the new journal. Corey told the audience that when he flipped it open, he found his paper not only in the first issue, but on the first page. I just took a quick peek online and found the title: “A theory for the stereospecific polymerization of propylene oxide by ferric chloride,” should anyone be curious.

Not to miss out on the nostalgia, Nobel Prize winner Jean-Marie Lehn also mentioned his link to the journal. Lehn says that two papers published in Tetrahedron Letters in 1969 were some of the first in the area of supramolecular chemistry. But he warned the audience that we might want to brush up on our French, because that’s the language he published them in.


Author: Sarah Everts

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  1. God, I hate to be a pedant, but that paper’s in the *second* issue of TL. (The very first paper is “Observations on some carbohydrate benzyldene derivatives” by B. Dobinson, A. B. Foster and M. Stacey from Birmingham). Corey’s TL paper has 4 citations, so is not currently helping his h index.

  2. Good catch Mat, you are indeed right. I’m guessing he didn’t mention the paper because it rocked his h-index, but instead to commemorate TL’s early days… though as you point out, not TL’s *earliest* day.