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Unification of the UK chemistry societies


How the IMEBORON conferences began
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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Another important aspect of the work of IUPAC [International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry] is in sponsoring international meetings and a very good example of this is in a thing called IMEBORON which is International Meetings on Boron Chemistry. The background to this is that in Czechoslovakia there was a very active and important group studying work on the boron hydrides and related fields, not unrelated, of course, to the work that we were talking about in boron that was going on in Leeds. Two of the leading chaps over there, Jaromir Plešek and Stan Stan Heřmánek decided that it would be a good idea to have an international meeting because at that time, which is in the early ‘70s, there wasn’t good connection between the Russian science and the western science. There were some connections, but it was not particularly good. Also it was difficult to travel particularly in Eastern Europe and Stan and Jaromir thought it would be a wonderful idea to get the leading Russian scientists working in the area, the leading American scientists and those in Europe to get together, get to know each other, discuss points of mutual concern.

Now, I’ve only been speaking about the particular aspect of boron chemistry that I’ve been involved in, boron trifluoride, boron hydrides and so forth but there are many other aspects of boron chemistry which I won’t elaborate here but throughout the world there’s been a big push in fact at least two Nobel prizes have come out of that work with Bill Lipscomb and with Herbert Brown.

So, they arranged the first of these international meetings on boron chemistry at an old castle outside Prague, Castle Liblice. We all came there. Most of us met our counterparts in other areas of boron chemistry for the first time. That meeting was so successful that it was decided there should be another follow up meeting in two or three years’ time and possibly starting an international series and I immediately offered to have the next IMEBORON in Leeds and so it was that three years later IMEBORON moved to Leeds and we hosted it there. But the point that I want to emphasise here is that at this stage our UPAC came into the scene and was a very great facilitator in enabling these meetings to occur and insisting, for example, that payments were appropriate, that visas could be obtained and travel permits and so forth. So the series of IMEBORON, which is still going on to this day in 2011, has been a very important aspect of the publication and continuation of work in this area.

Norman Greenwood (1925-2012) was born in Australia and graduated from Melbourne University before going to Cambridge. His wide-ranging research in inorganic and structural chemistry made major advances in the chemistry of boron hydrides and other main-group element compounds. He also pioneered the application of Mössbauer spectroscopy to problems in chemistry. He was a prolific writer and inspirational lecturer on chemical and educational themes, and held numerous visiting professorships throughout the world.

Listeners: Brian Johnson

Professor Brian FG Johnson FRS, FRSE, FRS Chem, FAcad Eu, FAS. Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Edinburgh 1991-1995, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Cambridge 1995-2005, Master Fitzwilliam College Cambridge 1999-2005. Research interests include studies of transition metal carbonyls, organometallic chemistry, nano- particles and homogeneous catalysis. Professor Johnson is the author of over 1000 research articles and papers.

Tags: IMEBORON, IUPAC, Czechoslovakia, Leeds University, 1970s, USSR, Europe, Nobel Prize, Castle Liblice, Prague, Jaromir Plešek, Stan Heřmánek, Bill Lipscomb, Herbert Brown

Duration: 3 minutes, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011