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Articles by Doug Neckers 


Sarin and Soman On Trial

With news of the Syrian civil war hotly debated in the United States, many people may wonder just what Sarin is. This article charts the short history of the development of organophosphorus nerve gasses, shown to be cholinesterase inhibitors. The essential chemical elements of all nerve gasses are phosphorus, oxygen and usually, though not always, fluorine. As early as 1932, the physiological effects of compounds such as dimethylfluoro phosphoridate (I) were noted. Claiming they would be used as insecticides,  I. G. Farben scientists, specifically Gerhard Schrader (originally in the Bayer labs in Leverkuesen and later in Elberfeld), began experimenting with the essentials and as a result the firstnerve gas Tabun (II), was reported in 1936...

READ "Sarin and Soman on Trial" by Doug Neckers.


The Synthesis of Quinine and the Art of the Synthetic Organic Chemist

The article will explore the role Polaroid played in the quinine synthesis – what impact, if any, did William von Eggers Doering’s German ancestory have on the venue for the synthesis? Did Polaroid scientists, other than Edwin Land who supported the work, actually work on the project? If they did, where did they work? Doering was prevented from areas of the chemistry buildings at Harvard and could not work on specific projects.  How far did this ban extend? Was it at all significant in the quinine effort?

READ "The Synthesis of Quinine and the Art of the Synthetic Organic Chemist" by Doug Neckers.

     See also article "Synthetic Quinine Put Under Inquiry" (New York Times, March 27, 1942). 

       Correction to Christopher Bonano's Instant: The Story of Polaroid  (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). 


The Farben Trial in Context

Farben’s chemists provided Hitler with the gasoline, rubber, and explosives to wage the most destructive war in world history. The Farben trial, after the war raised an age-old question for scientists, one of complicity.  Most researchers of conscience face a moral dilemma with the research of wars, because scientists are in the position of wanting---yes, needing--- to be good citizens and defend their homelands, but knowing that what they have to or might do has moral consequences.  Heinrich Hoerlein, one of the Nürnberg Farben ‘23’, collaborated with Gerhard Domagk at BASF on the discovery of ‘Prontosil’, the first so-called miracle drug.  The introduction of Sulfa and then antibiotics saved millions of human beings from lethal infections.  Who was Hoerlein?  Was he sulfanilamide, or was he testing methylene blue on patients with typhus who were concentration camp prisoners?  John Sheehan, who first synthesized penicillin at MIT, when a student at Michigan had developed the commercial synthesis of the explosive most used in WWII – RDX.  Who was Sheehan?  Was he RDX or was he penicillin?

READ "The Farben Trial in Context" by Doug Neckers.

    See also Neckers' Farben Bibliography and the  "Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals" prepared by the United Nations War Crimes Commission. 


Be a Chemist Like Uncle Jim-A Career in Photochemistry 

"About the only career advice my Dad gave me (save “Go to Hope”) was to be a chemist like Uncle Jim and get your graduate education paid for. “Don’t be a musician like me.” On that basis—being a chemist like Uncle Jim,  because I would get my graduate education paid for—I majored in chemistry. I didn’t warm much to smelting iron or the contact process, but essential oils, aspirin and other things of common encounter seemed more interesting. After spending a summer doing an undergraduate research project at Hope, I was hooked forever."

READ "Be a Chemist Like Uncle Jim-A Career in Photochemistry" by Doug Neckers.  


Reminiscences and Recommendations on Undergraduate Research

"I am a product of an American liberal arts college. So are my children, my wife, my parents, my brothers, their wives, my uncles and aunts, my grandfather and virtually everyone I know in the Neckers' family. Over the course of a 35-year career in science, I've been on boards, commissions, advisory committees and review panels that have punched, kneaded, investigated, probed, advised, and generally made nuisances of themselves to literally dozens of four-year colleges and their science faculties. To say I appreciate the notion of the uniquely American four-year institution is an understatement. Liberal arts colleges are in my blood..."

READ "Reminiscences and Recommendations on Undergraduate Research" by Doug Neckers.


Neckers Inaugural Address as Distinguished Research Professor 

Doug Neckers was Bowling Green State University's first appointed Distinguished Research Professor. He held that position for the remainder of his BGSU career. His inaugural address dealt with the value of organic compounds on which he had worked as historical entities. 

READ "Distinguished Research Professor Address" by Doug Neckers. 


Neckers Reflects on Collaborations with Nick Turro

This review is dedicated to Nick Turro and is focused on points of intersection in our mutual careers. Nick was beaming with ideas, and this provided the intellectual basis of a lifelong of learning. Nick grew crops from fields others didn't dare to plant. His cyclopropanone photochemistry is well known. But his insightful analyses in almost every paper created the good teacher that we all learned to know and revere. Nick, almost more than his mentor, George Hammond, outlined the field of mechanistic organic photochemistry. This review touches on a small number of ways in which he did that.

READ "Neckers Reflects on Collaborations with Nick Turro" by Doug Neckers.


Neckers Reflects on Collaborations with Paul Block and Melvin Spencer Newman

This reflection is focused on Doug Neckers' collaborations with Paul Block and Melvin Spencer Newman, giving biographical sketches and illuminating the ways that Block and Newman advanced chemistry and the world with their ideas and insight.

READ "Neckers Reflects on Collaborations with Paul Block and Melvin Spencer Newman" by Doug Neckers.


Neckers Reflects on the Visit of Annaleise Salamon

Doug Neckers reflecting on the visit of Anneliese Salamon, Holocaust survivor, to the Center on April 28, 2008. Karen Levene and Anneliese Salamon appeared together in a youth education program event. Karen was in Jamestown, NY to talk about her award-winning book about a youth who had perished in Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia, Hana’s Suitcase. Anneleise was invited by the Center because she was a Holocaust survivor, also from Theresienstadt who was just starting to tell her life story.

READ the correspondence and recollections on the visit of Annaleise Salamon by Doug Neckers.