January Dinner Meeting: Serendipity in Science

January Dinner MeetingWednesday, January 24, 2007

Taix French Restaurant
1911 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
213 484-1265

Serendipity in Science
Herbert D. Kaesz
Prof. Emeritus, UCLA

6:00 Check-in
7:00 Dinner
8:00 Presentation

Abstract: The history of science contains many examples of serendipitous, i.e., fortuitous discoveries which have resulted in important developments in technology and medicine. Serendipitous observations become significant only where the observer can recognize or correctly interpret the discovery. The drugs aspirin and quinine are traced back to native origins where healing properties of natural substances such as the bark of the willow or that of the chinchona tree were discovered by chance observations. Explorers and early settlers brought such knowledge back to countries of origin where the active ingredients such as salicylic acid or quinine were identified. Aspirin, which is acetylsalicylic acid, is now produced by synthetic means to fulfill the consumption of more than a million tablets annually.

A naive attempt to make quinine from coal tar bases led William Perkin to the accidental synthesis of mauve, a discovery that had enormous impact on chemical industry and world affairs. Also to be discussed is the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928, the subsequent production and purification of this antibiotic in large quantities by Howard Florey and Ernst Chain in 1940, and its biological action.

Biography: Prof. Kaesz was born in Alexandria, Egypt and emigrated to the U.S. when he was seven years old. He received an A.B. from N.Y.U. (Washington Square College) and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University. At Harvard he twice received awards for outstanding teaching assistantship and also served as a Resident Tutor for two years at Kirkland House.

Prof. Kaesz began his career at UCLA in 1960 and his principal teaching assignments were in introductory chemistry, structural inorganic chemistry and organometallic chemistry. His research interests are in the field of organometallic chemistry and the chemical vapor deposition of thin films. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa (NYU ’54), Sigma Xi (Harvard ’56) and an elected Fellow of the AAAS (1981). Prof. Kaesz received the Tolman Medal from the So. Calif. Section of the American Chemical Society in 1981, and has held two foreign fellowships, one from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in 1978 and one from the Humboldt Foundation (Germany) in 1988, and has twice held the post of Professeur Invite in France, once in Toulouse (1992) and once in Paris (1995). In 1998, Prof. Kaesz received the American Chemical Society Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry. His hobbies include woodworking and hiking.

Cost: There is a choice of Coq au Vin (chicken cooked in red wine sauce with mushrooms and pearl onions) or Beef Bourguignon (tender pieces of beef in burgundy wine mushroom sauce). Vegetarian entree available on request. The cost is $26 including tax, tip and valet parking.

Reservations: Please call Nancy at the Section Office at (310) 327-1216 or email to offices-at-scalacs-dot-org by Friday, January 19th, 2007. Note: Please honor your reservation. If you make a reservation and do not attend, you will be liable for the cost of the luncheon.

Directions: From the 101 Freeway Northbound: Exit Alvarado, right on Alvarado, right on Sunset. From the 101 Southbound: Exit Alvarado, left on Alvarado, right on Sunset.