Jean-Marie Lehn (1990) - Supramolecular chemistry: scope and perspectives

Jean-Marie Lehn (1990)

Supramolecular chemistry: scope and perspectives

Jean-Marie Lehn (1990)

Supramolecular chemistry: scope and perspectives

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As the only one of the three Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 1987, Jean-Marie Lehn made his appearance and gave his first lecture at a Lindau meeting in 1990. This year the meeting was dedicated to medicine, but, as Lehn expressed it, he was delighted to speak for so long to an audience having a biological background! His enthusiasm can be understood from the topic of his lecture, “Supramolecular chemistry: scope and perspectives”, and that this branch of chemistry has many important applications in the life sciences. Reactions when, e.g., complicated large biomolecules attach themselves to receptors on the surface of a cell, often turn out to be at least partly understood from geometrical arguments: The molecules have to fit to the receptors like a key fits to a lock. Lehn’s invention, Supramolecular chemistry, is a kind of generalization of this way of explaining chemical reactions. In the lecture he outlines some of the many important applications following the development of methods to synthesize, in the laboratory, molecules with prescribed shapes. This could be, e.g., a hollow molecule, which could “swallow” an atomic ion, or maybe a double helix shaped molecule, which could mimic the structure of DNA. A futuristic way of synthesis, mentioned by Lehn, is through molecular self-organization. In his lecture, he shows many examples and explains his methods using many illustrations and it is really a pity that the Lindau lectures were not videofilmed until much later. A possibility to see some of the illustrations in the lecture, though, is by looking up his Nobel Lecture from 1987, which has more or less the same title as the lecture in Lindau. Jean-Marie Lehn’s career has taken him to many places, but in particular to Paris and Strasbourg. At the Collège de France in Paris and at the ISIS, Institut de Science et d’Ingenierie Supramoleculaires, in Strasbourg, most of his research has been performed. Anders Bárány

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