Brown was born Herbert Brovarnik in London to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. He moved to the United States in June 1914, at the age of two. In autumn 1935, he entered the University of Chicago, completed two years of studies in three quarters, and earned a B.S. in 1936. That same year, he became a naturalized US citizen. On February 6, 1937, Brown married Sarah Baylen, the person he credits with making him interested in hydrides of boron, a topic related to the work in which he with Georg Wittig won the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1979. Two years after starting graduate studies, he earned a Ph.D. in 1938, also from the University of Chicago. Unable to find a position in industry, he decided to accept an offer for a position as a post-doctorate. This became the beginning of his academic career. He became an Instructor at the University of Chicago in 1939, and held the position for four years before moving to Wayne University in Detroit as an Assistant Professor. In 1946, he was promoted to an Associate Professor. He became a Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Purdue University in 1947 and joined Alpha Chi Sigma there in 1960. He held the position of Professor Emeritus from 1978 until his death in 2004. The Herbert C. Brown Laboratory of Chemistry was named after him on Purdue University's campus. He was an honorary member of the International Academy of Science.
During World War II, while working with Hermann Irving Schlesinger, Brown discovered a method for producing sodium borohydride (NaBH4), which can be used to produce boranes, compounds of boron and hydrogen. His work led to the discovery of the first general method for producing asymmetric pure enantiomers. The elements found as initials of his name H, C and B were his working field.
Brown was quick to credit his wife Sarah with supporting him and allowing him to focus on creative efforts by handling finances, maintaining the house and yard, etc. According to Brown, after receiving the Nobel prize in Stockholm, he carried the medal and she carried the US$100,000 award.
He died December 19, 2004, at a hospital in Lafayette, Indiana after a heart attack. Surviving are his son and his granddaughters.
1. ^ a b c d Wilhelm Odelberg (1979). Herbert C. Brown: The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1979. Les Prix Nobel. Nobel Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-08-27.
2. ^ Herbert C. Brown. Notable Names Database. Soylent Communications. Retrieved on 2007-08-27.
3. ^ Biography of Herbert C. Brown. Purdue University (2001). Retrieved on 2007-08-27.
4. ^ Alpha Chi Sigma Hall of Fame. Alpha Chi Sigma Fraternity. Retrieved on 2008-01-07.
* Herbert Brown biography at the Nobel Foundation from Les Prix Nobel, 1979
* Herbert Brown obituary in Chemical & Engineering News
* Herbert Brown obituary in USA Today
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