1899-1977

Louis Frederick Fieser

Location: Second Floor, West Wing, South Wall, Sequence 7

Source: Mary Fieser


Fieser had a strong interest in teaching. His dynamic personality and colorful lecturing style in the elementary organic course, first at Bryn Mawr (1924-30) and then at Harvard (1930-1968), communicated to students his love of science and the pleasure to be derived from a well-executed experiment. He published over 20 books, mostly co-authored with his wife Mary (Peters) Fieser; these included the widely adopted textbook "Organic Chemistry", its expanded version "Advanced Organic Chemistry" and the laboratory manuals "Experiments in Organic Chemistry" and "Organic Experiments", all of which were highly readable and innovative, and underwent several editions and translations into foreign languages. He also designed a set of inexpensive but accurate molecular models, ones that students could afford.

Fieser published over 300 research papers. He was an expert in quinone chemistry, published an elegant synthesis of Vitamin K1 (1939), and worked on carcinogenic polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, including a synthesis of methylcholanthrene. His interest in steroids led to the monograph "Natural Products Related to Phenanthrene", and later the classic "Steroids". With Mary he also published "Style Guide for Chemists" (on scientific writing) and the many-volumed "Reagents for Organic Synthesis". He loved to work in the laboratory, and is famous for the Martius Yellow Synthesis contest with his students, which, until his later years, he always won.

Fieser's many honors included election to the National Academy of Sciences (1940), the ACS Norris Award for Teaching (1959) and the Nichols Medal (1963). In 1996 Harvard dedicated the new state-of-the-art Louis and Mary Fieser Laboratory for Undergraduate Organic Chemistry in their honor.