The Role of Chemistry in History

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Sources of Quinine

April 17th, 2008 · 2 Comments ·

Intro | Chemistry | Sources | Affects History | History affects  | Poor Countries | Undesired Effects  | Substitutes | Conclusion

  •  Natural Source: The Cinchona Tree
    • It was not generally known which plant Quinine came from.
    • In 1735, a French botanist discovered the source as Cinchona tree.
    • Harvesting the bark of Chinchona then became major industry.
    • High demand  and low supply drove prices up.
    • Isolating and identifying the molecule became a big research field.

“High in the Andes, between three thousand and nine thousand feet above sea level, there grows a tree whose bark contains an alkaloid molecule, without which the world would be a very different place today”.

Napoleon’s Buttons: P.332

  • Synthetic Makeup:

“No matter how much the evidence points to the correctness of a proposed structure, to be absolutely sure it is correct, you have to synthesize the molecule by an independent route”.

Napoleon’s Buttons: P.340

    • Quinine is belived to be first  isolated in 1792, maybe in its impure form.
    • In 1820, French researchers Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Caventou identified and purified quinine.
    • Structure of quinine not fully understood until 2oth century.
    • First attempts to synthetize were unsuccessful.
    • In 1856, English chemist William Perkin combined allyltoluidine with 3 oxygens to make quinine.
    • He thought: 2C10H13N + 3O = C20H24N2O2 + H2O.
    • Instead, he made “mauve” and a lot of “money”.
    • In 1944 Robert Woodward and William Doering of Harvard presumably completed the synthesis of quinine.
    • They were able to convert a quinoline derivative into a molecule that, allegedely, was successfully transformed into quinine in 1918.
    • The report about this earlier work, however, could not be ascertained.
    • Finally, in 2001, Gilbert Stork from Columbia University and coworkers were able to synthesize quinine by going through all the steps themselves

Tags: Quinine