2014 Arduengo Lecture: Hans J. Reich


Structure and Reactivity of Organolithium Reagents
Thursday, April 24th, 2014
12:45 PM Room 1093 Shelby Hall
(Technical Lecture)

Organic Chemistry of Selenium in My Life and Yours
Friday, April 25th, 2014
3:30 PM, Room 1004 Shelby Hall
Reception to follow in Shelby Rotunda
(General Audience Lecture)


HANS J. REICH is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). Hans was born in Gdansk, Poland in May 1943. He and his family emigrated to Canada in 1950, and Hans obtained his B.S. degree in Chemistry with honors from the University of Alberta in 1964. Later that year, Hans moved to UCLA to conduct graduate research under the direction of Professor, and later Nobel laureate, Donald Cram. After earning his PhD in 1968, Hans worked with Professor J. D. Roberts at Cal Tech (1968-69) and then with Professor R. B. Woodward at Harvard (1969-70) as a Canadian National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow. Hans started his independent research career at the University of Wisconsin in 1970 and has remained there since. Hans met his wife Ieva while both were students in the doctoral program at UCLA. After marrying in 1969, Hans and Ieva moved to Madison, and she contributed greatly to the success of many projects (20 publications) as a researcher in the Reich lab. Ieva later became an award-winning organic chemistry instructor at UW.

Professor Reich started his research program at UW by developing new reactions with organoselenium compounds. His novel method for preparing α,β-unsaturated carbonyl compounds by the syn elimination of selenoxides became a staple of the synthetic organic chemist’s repertoire, and the corresponding publications remain among the most cited in chemistry. He subsequently reported techniques for the preparation of α-lithioselenides and selenoxides and highlighted their utility in synthetic transformations. Through pioneering work in the 1980s, Hans established new preparations and synthetic applications of organosilicon compounds, with an emphasis on the chemistry of silyl ketones and derivatives. Hans’ interests gradually shifted away from synthetic methods development to the exploration of the solution structures of widely used, but poorly understood, organolithium reagents and intermediates.

Professor Reich was soon recognized as a leader in the field of organolithium chemistry as a result of his innovative multinuclear NMR studies. Early investigations provided evidence for formation of –ate complexes in lithium-metalloid exchange reactions. Subsequent efforts established specific Li-C connectivities, organolithium aggregation states, dynamics of species interconversions, configurational stability information, effects of solvents and co-solvents (e.g., TMEDA and HMPA) on organolithium structure and reactivity, and the roles of lithium salt additives in several familiar reactions. In 1998, Hans reported that tris(trimethylsilyl)methane can be used as an internal 13C NMR chemical shift thermometer that is accurate to within 1 oC. More recently, Professor Reich employed rapid injection NMR to determine rates of reactions involving lithium species under a variety of conditions. Through this work, he obtained the first accurate measurements of the reactivity of organolithium aggregates and mixed aggregates towards common electrophiles. Hans’ ingenious approaches to determining solution structures and reactivities of organolithium species shattered the black box whose contents mystified so many for decades.

Professor Reich was named an A. P. Sloan Fellow (1975-79) early in his career. In 1991, he was honored with the NSF Award for Special Creativity (1991-1993). That same year, Hans was named Chair of the Organic Division (1991-1999) and Helfaer Professor of Chemistry at UW (1991-1996). He was feted with the Upjohn Teaching Award at UW in 1994 and the UW Mid-Career Award the following year. From 1999-2005, Professor Reich held the position of Associate Chair of Chemistry at UW. The GDCh awarded Hans the Arfvedson-Schlenk Prize (Lithium Award) in 2007 for his seminal contributions to our understanding of the structure and reactivity of organolithium species. In 2012, Professor Reich was presented the ACS James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry, the top honor in the field. Hans was a member of the Editorial Board of Organic Reactions from 1981-1991 and a Section Editor of the popular Encyclopedia of Reagents for Organic Synthesis from 1992-1999. He trained nearly 60 graduate students and postdoctoral associates in his 43 years at Wisconsin. To date, Hans and his students have authored over 165 journal and review articles. Notably, 6 publications have been cited over 200 times and 12 have been cited over 100 times. In addition, Hans created several of the most informative websites related to organic chemistry through his UW course pages, each of which offers a wealth of physical data, lists, problems, and written guides. The quality and depth of these pages are no surprise – Professor Reich is lauded for his lucid, thorough instruction and attention to detail by colleagues and students alike. Aside from science and teaching, Hans enjoys spending time with his family and capturing nature through photography.