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Book Review The Chemistry of Natural Products. Edited by R. H. Thomson

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Of particular interest to the scientist is the account of the
current state of chemical research and technology and the
developments to be expected in the innovative areas of
chemistry. These include, in particular, the following areas: chemical kinetics, theoretical chemistry, catalysis, synthesis, the chemical fundamentals of life, and analytical
From their account of the current state of and possible
fields of development in chemistry the authors derive,
from the American viewpoint, a number of scientific, industrial, and political recommendations, many of which
might also be relevant for other industrial nations, and not
least for the Federal Republic of Germany. The state of
competitiveness of US chemistry is carefully brought into
relief and attention is drawn to what other industrial nations are doing: thus, for example, it is pointed out that the
Max-Planck-Society in Mainz has founded a new Polymer
This excellent work is concomitantly a concise account
of our present chemical knowledge and, as such, also an
avowal to research and industrial progress: “Chemistry is
a central science that responds to societal needs” (P. 19).
The “Pimentel Report” provides a scientifically sound and
critical argument for all, who, despite the prevailing scepticism in our society, have faith in the future of chemistry.
Jan Thesing [NB 758 IE]
Merck, Darmstadt (FRG)
The Chemistry of Natural Products. Edited by R . H. 7homson. The Blackie Publishing Group, Glasgow 1985. xii,
467 pp., bound, L 46.00.-ISBN 0-412-00551-4
To produce a book about the progress made in the
chemistry of natural products in the last ten years is by no
means an easy task. The authors d o not claim to have written a comprehensive work, but are concerned rather with
giving an outline of progress in the main areas of the
chemistry of natural products. As the foreword makes
clear, the main emphasis in all the contributions is on
structure, chemistry and synthesis, but each chapter also
includes notes on biosynthesis. The book is divided into
nine chapters.
Chapter I (J. S . Brimacombe) deals with the chemistry of
carbohydrates. The applications of protecting groups are,
of course, discussed in detail here. This is followed by a
survey of the synthesis of sugars with antibiotic activity.
The reader is also given a compilation of natural products
syntheses which have employed sugars to transfer stereochemical information, and descriptions of some oligosaccharide syntheses. The chapter ends, with a survey of
structure determination in polysaccharides.
In Chapter 2, E. J. Thomas describes syntheses of aliphatic natural products. Syntheses of fatty acids and their
derivatives, of leukotrienes, marine natural products, pheromones, prostaglandins, polyether antibiotics, and macrolides are discussed in detail. The reactions described in
the text are illustrated by detailed charts, thus ensuring
that even very complex schemes are clearly presented. A
feature deserving special mention is the inclusion of lists
of review articles on each of the topics mentioned above,
which should help the user to find further literature in a
particular area.
In Chapter 3, T. J. Simpson has compiled information
Angenr. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 25 (1986) No. 9
on syntheses of aromatic compounds. For biosyntheses the
reader is referred to relevant books. Individual classes of
compounds are briefly dealt with in turn, including coumarins, chromanes, cannabinoids, butenolides, lignans,
flavonoids, naphthoquinones, ansamycins, and SO on.
Chapter 4, by J . R. Hunson, is a survey of terpenoids.
The terpenes are dealt with in order of increasing number
of isoprene units, and the chapter concludes with a short
section on carotenoids. Owing to the enormous number of
compounds it is not possible to give complete details of all
the syntheses and biosyntheses. Here too the reader is referred to review articles. An incidental point here is that
the reactants given under Scheme 12 ought to be included
in Scheme 14.
In Chapter 5, B. A . Marples gives a survey on steroids. A
general introduction is followed by sections on rearrangements, biomimetic syntheses, polyene cyclizations, and
more recent partial and total syntheses. Lack of sufficient
space has prevented some aspects from being treated in
detail, e.g. the synthesis of polyenes.
In Chapter 6 (B. W. Bycroft and A . A . Higton), aminoacids, peptides and proteins are discussed. If in addition to
their chemistry, the biochemical or biosynthetic aspects
had also been covered, it would have exceeded the limits
of such a chapter. The first section deals with various amino acids, with detailed descriptions of a small number of
syntheses. In the sections o n peptides and proteins too, the
presentation is mainly concerned with structural aspects.
Methods for sequence determination in peptides and proteins are touched on briefly. All the sections contain numerous references to biochemical studies.
The subject of Chapter 7, by I . R . C. Bick, is alkaloids,
which have been classified according to their biogenetic
origin. In this chapter the main emphasis is on synthesis,
but numerous references to the biochemistry and biosynthesis of the compounds are included.
In Chapter 8, J . B . Hobbs covers recent developments in
the area of nucleotide chemistry. The chapter begins with a
section on nucleosides (synthesis, reactivity and alkylation), followed by a similarly organized section on nucleotides. Three sub-sections are devoted to chirality at the
phosphorus atom. The final section of this chapter deals
with syntheses of nucleic acids and techniques for sequence determination.
In Chapter 9, A . H. Jackson deals with porphyrins and
related compounds. The emphasis is on synthetic methods,
together with a few digressions into biosynthesis. Following a section on porphyrins, chlorophylls and their analogs
are discussed. A comparatively large amount of space is
given to syntheses of Vitamin Bl2and related compounds.
The chapter ends with sections on bile pigments and prodigiosins.
The book is a very successful cooperative effort by the
various authors. It is not suitable as a beginner’s introduction to the chemistry of natural products, since it assumes
some specialist chemical knowledge, but because of the
wealth of information which it contains on each group of
substances it can be recommended for all research workers
in the field, and for scientists who wish to keep u p to date
in these matters.
The book is very attractively produced, and contains remarkably few misprints in the text or errors in the diagrams. It is worth the price.
Werner Angst [NB 744 IE]
Laboratorium fur Organische Chemie der
ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
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