Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Robert Robinson Award Lecture

The Application of Physical Organic Methods to the Investigation of Organometallic Reaction Mechanisms

Monday 18 May 2015

Time: 16:00
Location: University of Bath, Building 5 West, Room 2.3 (maps)
Speaker: Professor Robert G. Bergman, University of California, Berkeley

The Robert Robinson Award of the RSC is awarded annually by the Organic Chemistry Division to established researchers to recognise exceptional contributions to organic chemistry. This year Prof. Bergman received this prestigious distinction for his "outstanding contributions in physical organic and organometallic chemistry".

About the speaker: Robert G. Bergman was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1942. After completing his undergraduate studies in chemistry at Carleton College in 1963, he received his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in 1966 under the direction of Jerome A. Berson. While at Wisconsin he was awarded a National Institutes of Health Predoctoral Fellowship. Bergman spent 1966-67 as a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Fellow in Ronald Breslow's laboratories at Columbia, and following that went to the California Institute of Technology as a Noyes Research Instructor. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1969, associate professor in 1971, and full professor in 1973. He accepted an appointment as Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, in July 1977, and moved his research group to Berkeley about a year later. In 2002 he was appointed Gerald E. K. Branch Distinguished Professor at Berkeley.

Bergman was trained as an organic chemist and spent the first part of his independent career at Caltech investigating the mechanisms of organic reactions. He also developed methods for the generation and study of unusually reactive molecules, such as 1,3-diradicals and vinyl cations. In 1972 he discovered the thermal cyclization of cis-1,5-hexadiyne-3-enes to l,4-dehydrobenzene diradicals. In the 1980's this transformation of enediynes was identified as a crucial DNA-cleaving reaction in several antibiotics that bind to nucleic acids, and the enediyne reaction is now often referred to as the "Bergman cyclization". In the mid-1970's Bergman's research broadened to include organometallic chemistry. Since moving to Berkeley he has made contributions to the synthesis and chemistry of several types of organotransition metal complexes and to improving our understanding of the mechanisms of their reactions. In this area he has focused on migratory insertion and oxidative addition reactions, the chemistry of new dinuclear complexes, the investigation of organometallic compounds having metal-oxygen and -nitrogen bonds (as part of this work he uncovered one of the earliest examples of early-transition metal alkyne and allene hydroamination processes), and the reactions of organotransition metal enolates. He is probably best known for his discovery of the first soluble organometallic complexes that undergo intermolecular insertion of transition metals into the carbon-hydrogen bonds of alkanes and the use of liquefied noble gas solvents in the study of these reactions, and recently he has been involved in the application of C-H activation reactions to problems in organic synthesis. In other recent efforts he has initiated research in Green Chemistry, specifically targeting the metal-catalyzed dehydroxylation of polyols and catalyzed methods for the degradation of lignin.

To date Bergman has published 600 papers (>35 000 citations, h = 95) and received numerous awards."