Francois Auguste Victor Grignard (6 May 1871 – 13 December 1935) was a French chemist who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the eponymously named Grignard reagent and Grignard reaction, both of which are important in the formation of carbon–carbon bonds.
|Born||6 May 1871|
|Died||December 13, 1935 (aged 64)|
|Resting place||Guillotière Cemetery, Lyon|
|Alma mater||University of Lyon|
|Known for||Grignard reaction|
|Spouse(s)||Augustine Marie Boulant|
|Awards||Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1912)|
Lavoisier Medal (1912)
|Institutions||University of Nancy|
|Doctoral advisor||Philippe Barbier|
Grignard was the son of a sail maker. His character was described as having humble and friendly attitude. After attempting to major in mathematics, Grignard failed his entrance exams before being drafted into the army in 1892. After one year of service, he went back to pursue mathematics at the University of Lyon and finally obtained his degree Licencié ès Sciences Mathématiques in 1894. In December of the same year, he transferred to chemistry and began working with Professors Philippe Barbier (1848–1922) and Louis Bouveault (1864–1909). After working with stereochemistry and enines, Grignard was not impressed with the subject matter and asked Barbier about a new direction for his doctoral research. Barbier advised that Grignard research how a failed Saytzeff reaction, using zinc, was successful, in low yields, after using magnesium. They sought to synthesize alcohols from alkyl halides, aldehydes, ketones, and alkenes. Grignard hypothesized that the aldehyde/ketone prevented the magnesium from reacting with the alkyl halide which resulted in the low yields. He tested his hypothesis by first adding the alkyl halide and magnesium filings to a solution of anhydrous ether and then adding the aldehyde/ketone. This resulted in a drastic increase in the yield of the reaction.
A couple of years later, Grignard was able to isolate the intermediate. He had heated a mixture of magnesium turnings, isobutyl iodide, and added dry ethyl ether to the mixture and a reaction was observed. The product is known as a Grignard reagent. Named after him, this organo-magnesium compound (R-MgX) (R = alkyl ; X = Halogen) readily reacts with ketones, aldehydes, and alkenes to produce their respective alcohols in impressive yields. Grignard had discovered the synthetic reaction which now bears his name (the Grignard reaction) in 1900. In 1901, Grignard published his doctoral thesis titled "Thèses sur les combinaisons organomagnesiennes mixtes et leur application à des synthèses d‘acides, d‘alcools et d‘hydrocarbures". He became a lecturer in organic chemistry at the University of Nancy in 1909, and was promoted to full professor in 1910. In 1912 he and Paul Sabatier (1854–1941) were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. During World War I he studied chemical warfare agents with Georges Urbain at Sorbonne University, particularly the manufacture of phosgene and the detection of mustard gas. In 1918, Grignard discovered that sodium iodide could be used as a battlefield test for mustard gas. Sodium iodide converts mustard gas to diiododiethyl sulfide, which crystallizes more easily than mustard gas. This test could detect as little as 0.01 gram of mustard gas in one cubic meter of air and was successfully used on the battlefield. His counterpart on the German side was another Nobel Prize–winning chemist, Fritz Haber.
Grignard is most noted for devising a new method for generating carbon-carbon bonds using magnesium to couple ketones and alkyl halides. This reaction is valuable in organic synthesis. It occurs in two steps:
Grignard was drafted into the French military as part of obligatory military service in 1892. Within the two years of his first session of service he rose to the rank of corporal. He was demobilized in 1894 and returned to Lyon to pursue his education. He was awarded a medal of the Legion of Honour and made a Chevalier in 1912 after winning the Nobel Prize. When World War I broke out, Grignard was drafted back into the military, keeping his rank of corporal. He was placed on sentry duty, and served there for several months until he was brought to the attention of the General Staff. Grignard had been wearing his Medal of the Legion of Honour, despite being ordered to take it off by a superior. After looking more into Grignard, the General Staff decided that he would be better suited for research than sentry duty, so they assigned him to the explosives division. Grignard's research shifted to antidotes to chemical weapons when production of TNT was no longer sustainable, and eventually Grignard was assigned to research new chemical weapons for the French army.
Victor Grignard was a brilliant French chemist who became famous at age 29 for the discovery of the organomagnesium halides and their versatility in chemical synthesis.