A tribute to the Greeks

Many of the molecules studied in our lab at the University of Toronto belong to the amphoteric class (hence, the title of this blog). Amphoteric molecules contain counterintuitive combinations of functional groups that are expected to react with each other, yet don’t do it prematurely due to a good kinetic reason (this is case-dependent). Not long ago I caught myself thinking that we do not put things into proper perspective and rarely trace the origins of the idea to its humble beginnings. To do that, we have to go back to the Greek philosophers and, in particular, Heraclitus, the father of dialectics. Here is his paraphrased quote:


I think we can all name a couple of examples from the literature that use this concept metaphorically. One of my favourite books, Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”, hinges on the idea that good and evil can’t live without each other (i.e. they need each other because neither can exist without a contrast). In our case things are much more benign – a nucleophile and electrophile that co-exist… But still…

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