On Brice Bosnich

Today I learned the sad news: Boz passed away. For those of you who hear this nickname for the first time, this is how Professor Brice Bosnich has been known in the chemistry community. There are many admirers of his work out there, which is a testament to the mark this man has left on the field of organometallic chemistry.

Before finishing his career at the University of Chicago, Boz was a faculty member at the University of Toronto. I met him on a couple of occasions (although I arrived to Toronto after he had already been gone) and got to appreciate his uncompromising ways. I can tell you many stories that outdo one another in their political incorrectness. But that’s not the point today. We need to remember Boz for what he did in round bottomed flasks, where he turned many a molecule into a frenzy.

Which Boz’s paper I like the most? The answer is clear: it is the one that raised my eye brows. In 1991 Boz published a curious report of the rearrangement of allylic alcohols catalyzed by rhodium complexes. What’s interesting is that enols produced during this transformation are stable against ketonization. While something like this would be a heresy in the presence of water, it is entirely feasible in an organic medium such as acetone, provided that protons are excluded. The trick to avoid ketonization is to ensure that allylic alcohol isomerization is much faster than subsequent tautomerization. That’s it, deceptively simple and nuanced. As a result, we have the most effective method of generating enols in aprotic solutions. RIP, Boz.



4 thoughts on “On Brice Bosnich

  1. I hadn’t heard this, sad news indeed. Boz was a character! But also a tremendously gifted scientist who contributed landmark chemistry to the field of homogeneous catalysis. My chemical grandfather, I had several memorable interactions with him, including an emphatic correction of my confident statement that I had “observed the active catalyst” in a reaction I was studying as a first year grad student on a visit by Boz to UBC. OK, resting state, then! He and my Dad served on the NSERC committee together back in the day, and while their characters were quite different, they hit it off and had a strong mutual respect for each other. Thanks for the blog post, RIP Boz indeed.

  2. Sad news. Bos was my graduate adviser – we spent six years together playing with bimetallic reactivity. They don’t make people like him anymore.

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