Organic Chemistry

To the 150th Anniversary of the Department of Organic Chemistry of SPbSU

Voskresenskiy AAThe beginning of teaching and researching in the field of organic chemistry in St. Petersburg is associated with the name of Alexander Abramovich Voskresensky (1808–1880), a pupil of the famous chemist, Professor G.H. Hess. In 1836 he graduated from the Main Pedagogical Institute according to the first category. Moreover, having received a gold medal, he was sent abroad where he underwent a training under the guidance of E. Mitschelich, H. Rose, and G. Magnus in Berlin in 1836–1837 and by an outstanding scientist Justus von Liebig (an honorary professor of the St. Petersburg University since 1858) in Giessen in 1837–1838. In the well-equipped Liebig’s laboratory A.A. Voskresensky studied natural compounds. He determined the composition of naphthalene, quinone, quinic acid, and theobromine for the first time and published his first papers in "Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie" (thereafter, "Liebigs Annalen") therein. A.A. Voskresensky came back to Russia in 1838 and at once began to teach at the St. Petersburg University, initially as an adjunct and later as a full professor. He delivered lectures on organic chemistry at the St. Petersburg University since 1843 and besides, taught at the Pedagogical Institute (here he replaced his teacher, Professor G.H. Hess after his death), at the Institute of Communications, at the Engineering Academy, at the Page Corps, and the Guard Subensigns School. The outcome of such an activity was a number of pupils; that gave Voskresensky the nickname "the grandfather of Russian chemists". Suffice it to say that N. A. Menshutkin and D.I. Mendeleev were among his students. However, such a pedagogical load almost entirely excluded an opportunity for experimental work, that Russian professors were able for a long time to carry out abroad only.

Mendeleev DI 1855In 1857, Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev (1834–1907) came back to St. Petersburg from Odessa. At his request, A.A. Voskresensky conceded to him a course of lectures on organic chemistry at the St. Petersburg University being first delivered by D. I. Mendeleev in the fall of 1858. Moreover, in 1861, he prepared the first Russian textbook on organic chemistry that withstood several editions and was awarded by the full Demidov Prize. Nevertheless, organic chemistry did not become any noticeable sphere of D.I Mendeleev’s activity. Since 1865, he headed two chairs (general and inorganic chemistry) that were a part of natural department of physical-mathematical Faculty of the St. Petersburg University but were not directly related to organic chemistry.

Butlerov AMIt was not surprising that in 1866–1867, the question arose of the invitation of Alexander Michailovich Butlerov (1828–1886) to the St. Petersburg University from Kazan. He was already known as the creator of the theory of the chemical structure of organic compounds by that time. On May 11, 1868, according to the recommendation of D.I. Mendeleev, the council of the department of physics and mathematics of the Imperial St. Petersburg university elected A.M. Butlerov as an ordinary professor of chemistry but without specifying the department because D.I. Mendeleev was not inferior to him any of the two! A. M. Butlerov delivered his first lecture on organic chemistry on January 23, 1869. The department of organic chemistry was established for him (and the department of analytical and technical chemistry was taken up by N.A. Menshutkin) in the same year. That was also when A.M. Butlerov arranged the laboratory of organic chemistry. His students, such as E.E. Wagner, G.G. Gustavson, M.D. L’vov, and V.E. Tishchenko, worked together with him. All chemical laboratories were located in the first floor of the building of Twelve Collegia between the main entrance and the Neva embankment occupying 25 windows along the facade between the apartments of D.I. Mendeleev and laboratory assistant D.P. Pavlov. A.M. Butlerov was elected as an ordinary academician in 1869.

An important milestone in the life of Russian chemists was the Russian Chemical Society established in 1868. N.N. Zinin became its first president. More and more "points of growth» began to emerge in St. Petersburg (along the whole Russia, too). Teaching and researching in the area of organic chemistry were carried out therein (it is sufficient to mention the Institute of Technology, Agricultural Institute (now Forestry University), and Artillery Academy).

Menshutkin NAAfter the death of A. M. Butlerov in 1886, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Menshutkin (1842–1907) began to deliver lectures on organic chemistry and was appointed the head of the chair. As far back as 1883, N.A. Menshutkin published "Lectures on organic chemistry". They were republished three times and represented the major textbook on organic chemistry in Russian universities till the beginning of the ХХ century.

At that time, the Division of Natural Sciences of the university was significantly expanded and chemical laboratories were transferred to the new building constructed in the university yard according to the best European standards. N.A. Menshutkin was in charge of this construction and delivered his first lecture on organic chemistry in the new building in 1894. The kinetics of organic reactions (e.g., the esterification of acids and the alkylation of amines) was investigated under N.A. Menshutkin's leadership in new room of the Organic Chemistry Laboratory. This research laid the basis for classical chemical kinetics.

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Large chemical audience of the St. Petersburg University (end of the XIXth century)

Favorskiy AEHowever, in 1902, N.A. Menshutkin moved over to Polytechnic Institute and Alexey Yevgrafovich Favorsky (1860–1945) became the head of the chair. He was a pupil of A.M. Butlerov and D.M. L’vov and his works created a new branch of organic chemistry, that of acetylene.

In the early twentieth century in his lab, S.N. Danilov, V.N. Ipatieff, Z.I. Jocić, S.V. Lebedev, and A.E. Porai-Koshits studied and worked, acetylene-allene rearrangement, keto-enol tautomerism, and the isomerization of dimethylallene to isoprene were discovered here; dioxane was obtained for the first time.

Komnata A.E. Favorskogo

Chemical laboratory. A.E. Favorsky's room

In 1915, the chemical division was open at the physico-mathematical department. However, the work of the former has almost ceased during the revolution and the civil war followed by devastation. The chemical division began to return to life only in 1925 having received a new building in Sredniy Prospect. Moreover, after a number of reorganizations, in June of 1929 the chemical faculty was established as a part of the Leningrad University. However, it was liquidated in 1930 in accordance with the decision on developing the common scientific and technical center on the basis of the Technological Institute, and students were transferred to the Technological Institute. In 1933, the chemical faculty of the University was restored as a part of four departments that included the department of organic chemistry. September 1, 1933 it was headed by Konstantin Aleksandrovich Taipale (1882–1937), a disciple of V.E. Tishchenko.

Taypale KA 1934

Participants of the solemn meeting dedicated to the centenary of D.I. Mendeleev, September 14, 1934. K.A. Taipale stands wearing a cap, the fourth from the right in the second row.

Somewhat later, in 1934, the Chemical Institute was founded as a research division of the university. It included the special laboratory of organic chemistry headed by A.E. Favorsky till 1941. The A.E. Favorsky laboratory became a real forge of scientific personnel in organic chemistry before the war. During that time, he established the Institute of Organic Chemistry1, and also arranged new research areas at the Technological Institute. Future academicians I.N. Nazarov and G.A. Razuvaev and professors N.A. Domnin, T.I. Temnikova, A.I. Zakharova, F.Ya. Perveev, I.A. Dyakonov, and K.A. Ogloblin worked then with A.E. Favorsky.

1 During the transfer of the USSR Academy of Sciences from Leningrad to Moscow in 1934, this Institute was transferred one of the first ones.

Dolgov BNAfter the death of K.A. Taipale in November of 1937, Boris Nickolaevich Dolgov (1894–1959) became the head of the chair. The latter was one of the few surviving students of V.N. Ipatieff, a prominent specialist in heterogeneous catalysis of organic reactions and the application of high pressures in organic chemistry. On the initiative of Dolgov, the laboratory of catalysis and later the one of high pressures were created at the chair in the 40s.

Dyakonov IAIn 1959, Ivan Alexandrovich D’yakonov (1911–1968), a student of A.E. Favorsky, became the head of the chair. He was engaged in the chemistry of aliphatic diazo compounds and small cycles, and also was a pioneer of research in the area of carbene chemistry. He drastically changed and determined the theme of research on many years to come having attracted new professors to the work at the chair. The outcomes of the fruitful activity of Ivan Alexandrovich and his colleagues, such as B.V. Ioffe, I.K. Korobitsyna, K.A. Ogloblin, and I.A. Favorskaya, were the modernization of the educational process and the intensification of research.

Favorskaya IAIoffe BVTwo specializations, such as organic synthesis and organic analysis, were formed at the chair. In 1967, the gas chromatography lab was established in addition to the laboratory of organic analysis, available at the chair. The latter was headed by Irina Alekseevna Favorskaya (1910–2002), the younger daughter of A.E. Favorsky. The GC lab was directed by Boris Veniaminovich Ioffe (1921–1997) for a long time.

There was no doubt that B.V. Ioffe was one of the brightest professors of the chair. He graduated from the Leningrad State University (LSU) in 1942 during evacuation. Therefore his diploma work was headed by professors R.Ya. Levina and Yu.K. Yuriev at the Moscow State University. He always regarded himself as their pupil. Right after his graduation thesis, he was called up for military service and his activities in LSU began only after demobilization in December of 1945. He arranged student labs on modern methods of organic synthesis (from 1962) and gas chromatography (in 1966), and also developed a course of lectures on physical methods in organic chemistry, which he brilliantly taught during several decades. He headed and developed a new scientific direction, the vapor-phase analysis of complex mixtures and reaction systems. Moreover, B.V. Ioffe suggested the term itself "vapor-phase analysis" as a Russian analogue of the English name "head-space analysis". Under his leadership, nearly three dozen PhD theses were defended, many of his students became Doctors of Science.

Stolyarov BVVitenberg AGTwo of them, future professors of the department Boris Vladimirovich Stolyarov (1937–2002) and Alexander Grigor’evich Vitenberg (1935–2011), being still young candidates of sciences, together with B.V.Ioffe invested a lot of forces and energy in the organization and work of the educational and research laboratory of gas chromatography, in the development of its scientific topic.

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V.P. Semenov, A.A. Potekhin, K.A. Ogloblin, and B.V. Ioffe (1989)

Korobizina IKAt this time, research in the area of acetylene and polyacetylene compounds continued in the laboratory of I.A. Favorskaya. The investigations became the subject of 15 PhD theses. New subject matter, the chemistry of diazocarbonyl compounds appeared at the chair in the mid sixties after the relocation of Irina Kirillovna Korobitsyna, another pupil of Yu.K. Yuriev, from Moscow. Her doctorate thesis dealt with the chemistry of mono- and diketones of tetrahydrofuran series. In Leningrad, she and her PhD students began to explore properties of diazoderivatives of these species. In addition to this, photochemical variants of organic reactions were extensively developed in her group.

Ogloblin KAFrom 1969 to 1989 the chair was headed by Konstantin Alexandrovich Ogloblin (1914–2005), the last graduate student A.E. Favorsky. The area of his research interest was related to nitrosation of unsaturated compounds. On his shoulders in the 1980s there was a very painful transfer of the department from the old cramped premises in the building on Vasilevsky Island to the new spacious rooms of the Faculty of Chemistry in Peterhof, where it is currently located. Suffice it to say that according to the order of the Rector of LSU the relocation was carried out into the building under construction, and often transported furniture and equipment were simply sheltered with polyethylene in not finished premises, and work in laboratories began only in 2-3 years, after bringing rooms, windows, hoods, water supply and sewerage into proper order. However, as a result, the area of the department's premises increased several times, spacious labs appeared, and a lot of students received new dormitories near the faculty.

Potehin AAKuznezov MAIn 1989, K. A. Ogloblin was replaced by his pupil, Anatoly Alekseevich Potekhin (1938–2007), whose major interests lay in the field of chemistry of heterocyclic compounds. Since March of 2007 the chair is headed by Mikhail Anatolyevich Kuznetsov, who is a disciple of B.V. Ioffe.

At present, the department carries out the educational process having 8 professors, including the director of the Institute of Chemistry I.A.Balova, 9 associate professors, as well as the staff of the Institute of Chemistry — 2 senior teacher and 4 assistants. Among the teachers and employees of the department 11 people have the degree of Doctor of Chemical Sciences, 17 — the degree of Candidate of Sciences. The department's training work includes general courses and workshops on organic chemistry, introduction into spectroscopy, lectures on application of physical methods in organic chemistry, lectures on stereochemistry of organic compounds, and special courses on various sections of synthetic and analytical organic chemistry for masters and graduate students. In addition, teachers of the department conduct classes at the Faculty of Biology, Faculty of Physics and at the Institute of Earth Sciences. Each year the department is completed by about 20 bachelor's and master's degrees. Every year there are 4–8 postgraduate students, most of whom successfully defend their PhD dissertation on time.

In the early 10th years of 21 century, a system of resource centers (RC) was created in the SPbSU, later merged into the SPbSU Science Park. Modern scientific equipment was purchased for their organization, which was previously available to universants only when working abroad. For organic chemists, the most important was the creation of the Magnetic Resonance RC, equipped with several multinuclear NMR spectrometers (300 to 500 MHz), including solid-state, as well as ESR and NQR spectrometers. In addition, their services include "RC for X-ray diffraction studies" with two modern monocrystal diffractometers, "Chemical analysis and materials RC" equipped with gas and liquid chromatographs, chromatomass spectrometers, UV and IR spectrometers, elemental analyzers, etc. As well as a number of more specialized RC (optical and laser materials research, physical methods of surface investigation) and SPbSU computing center. In addition, the scientific work of bachelor's and master's degrees uses chromatographic and spectral equipment of the educational resource center in the direction of chemistry. All this has made it possible to dramatically increase the level and productivity of scientific work.

Balova IA Vasilev AV Kostikov RR Karzova LA Zenkevich IG
I.A. Balova A.V. Vasilyev R.R. Kostikov L.A. Kartsova I.G. Zenkevich

The modern scientific subject matter of the Department of Organic Chemistry has deep historical roots. First of all, it is worth noting research originating from A.E. Favorsky’s works in the field of derivatives of acetylene and diacetylene. The investigations are extensively carried out in professors I.A. Balova and A.V. Vasilyev groups. Pioneer works by I.A. Dyakonov on chemistry of diazo compounds, carbenes, and small rings found their continuation and development in the works of professors R.R. Kostikov (1938–2017), M.A. Kuznetsov, A.P. Molchanov, M.S. Novikov, A.F. Khlebnikov, and their pupils. The heritage of B.V. Ioffe in the field of chemistry of organic hydrazine derivatives and of heterocyclic compounds is being developed in the works by M.A. Kuznetsov, and V.V Sokolov, while the analytical part of it is multiplied by the efforts of I.G. Zenkevich and L.A. Kartsova.

More detailed information about the scientific work carried out at the department can be found on the pages of its scientific groups.