1908-1993

Melvin Spencer Newman

Location: Second Floor, West Wing, North Wall, Sequence 1

Source: John D. Roberts

Sponsor: David J. Hart


Newman is known for his research on polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, where he developed new synthetic methods and explored structural effects on their carcinogenicity. Results are summarized in the book he co-authored on "The Chemistry and Biology of Benz[a]anthracenes" (1988). Newman showed that steric hindrance and overcrowding distorted the aromatic framework from planarity, causing it to become helically chiral. This work was crowned with the synthesis and resolution of hexahelicene (1956). His book "Steric Effects in Organic Chemistry" (1956) stimulated interest in this field. Newman's research interests ranged widely; in this portrait he holds a model of vinylene carbonate, a compound he first synthesized (1953) and used as a dienophile and monomer.

Newman was exceptional among professors with large research groups in that he always worked in the laboratory himself. His philosophy on the importance of laboratory instruction is explicated in his book "An Advanced Laboratory Course" (1976). Newman is best known to undergraduates for the "Newman Projection Formulas", widely used to describe conformational isomers. He received the ACS 1961 Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry, the 1979 Roger Adams Medal, and many other honors. His passions other than chemistry were Ohio State University, golf and jazz.