Chemistry Nobel Prize for the year 1912 was awarded to both Victor Grignard and Paul Sabatier for their pioneering work in chemistry. Let us learn about their professional and personal endeavors.

Victor Grignard

  • Victor Grignard was awarded Chemistry Nobel Prize 2012 for his outstanding discovery of the versatile reagent known as Grignard Reagent. Every student of chemistry has to read or make use of Grignard reagent starting from their student days and this reagent has been playing a crucial role in the progress of organic chemistry. Grignard shared the Nobel Prize with Paul Sabatier for his method of hydrogenating organic compounds employing finely divided metals. Grignard also won several awards like Cahours Prize, Berthelot Medal, Lavoisier Medal, Honorary Fellow of the Chemical Society (London) and foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
  • François Auguste Victor Grignard was born on 6th May, 1871 in Cherbourg, France Grignard. He married Augustine Marie Boulant in 1910 and blessed with one son and one daughter. His son Roger, followed in the academic footsteps of his father.  Grignard died on December 13, 1935.
  • After his early education, Grignard had good fortune to join in the University of Lyons. He has obtained his doctoral degree in 1901 on the subject organo-magnesium compounds. He has reached the positions of Professor, Head of Organic Chemistry Group and latter Dean of Faculty of Sciences in University of Lyons.
  • As all of us know that combining or synthesizing the  organic substances by chemical means is important in both scientific and industrial contexts. Grignard’s  discovery of magnesium alkly halides  played an extra-ordinary role in this context  as “Grignard Reagent”.   Grignard developed several  applications for his reagent  for combining more basic organic compounds into more complex ones by causing carbon atoms to be bound to one another.
  • Grignard has employed these reagents for the preparation of exotic alcohols, ketones, keto-esters, nitriles and terpene compounds to name a few.   In addition, Grignard reported several other reactions like constitution of unsaturated compounds by quantitative ozonization, condensation of aldehydes and ketones, ketone splitting of tertiary alcohols, the cracking of hydrocarbons in presence of aluminium chloride and catalytic hydrogenation and dehydrogenation processes under reduced pressures.

Paul Sabatier

  • Paul Sabatier was awarded Chemistry Nobel Prize for his outstanding discovery of hydrogenation of organic compounds in the presence of finely disintegrated metals whereby the progress of organic chemistry has been greatly advanced in recent years. He has shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1912 with Victor Grignard, who received it on account of his discovery of Grignard reagent.
  • Sabatier was born on 5th November, 1854 in Carcassonne, France. He married Mlle. Herail and they had four daughters, one of whom married the Italian chemist, Emilio Pomilio. Sabatier was fond of art and gardening and he was a very reserved person.
  • Sabatier was educated at the local Lycée. After his graduation, he taught physics for a year in a local school at Nîmes before going to the Collège de France in 1878 as assistant to Berthelot. He received the degree of Doctor of Science in 1880.
  • He was elected as a Professor of Chemistry in 1884 at the University of Toulouse, a post which he retained until his retirement in 1930. He became Dean of the Faculty of Science in 1905 and continued to lecture after his retirement until his death in 1941. He was ever faithful to Toulouse and turned down many offers of attractive positions elsewhere.
  • Sabatier’s contributions to the area of catalysis were outstanding. He has developed a method for causing unsaturated organic substances to absorb hydrogen and form new organic compounds. His discovery of the use of finely-divided metal hydrogenation catalysts was changed the scenario in the area of hydrogenation. These inventions formed the bases for the preparation of many industrial products like margarine, vegetable oil hydrogenation, and synthetic methanol industries. He demonstrated the selectivity of catalytic action and also the selectivity of catalysts to poisons, as well as introducing the use of supports and showing the resultant enhanced activity. He also made a close study of catalytic hydration and dehydration, examining carefully the feasibility of specific reactions and the general activity of various catalysts.
  • Sabatier was awarded several medals like Prix Lacate, the Prix Jecker, the Davy Medal and Royal Medal of the Royal Society,  and the Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute. He died on 14th August, 1941 at Toulouse, France.

Contributed by Dr R B N Prasad, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad