John Eisch


John Eisch
Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
Department of Chemistry

The State University of New York at Binghamton

Phone: 607-777-4261



John Joseph Eisch is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he attended St. Augustine Grade School in the Bay View area and then received a scholarship to study at St. John Cathedral High School from which he was graduated as salutatorian in 1948. Thereupon he entered Marquette University where he pursued the B.S. degree with a major in chemistry and a minor in philosophy. During his studies there he was most fortunate to come under the influence of the inspiring and legendary Professor Clifford Robert Haymaker, who though blind from birth had persisted in his love of chemistry and had been awarded the Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Marquette in 1938. John Eisch enjoyed several career-shaping contacts with Professor Haymaker: as his instructor in several lecture and lab courses in organic chemistry; as an undergraduate teaching assistant in Professor Haymaker's lecture courses; and as his bachelor's thesis advisor, together with the late Professor Kenneth D. Brown of the Marquette Medical School. He was graduated with the B.S. degree in chemistry, summa cum laude, in 1952 and with the B.S. thesis entitled, "Qualitative Identification of the Components of the Okra Pod Polysaccharide Fraction by Paper Chromatography". He was awarded a four-scholarship to undertake studies for the doctorate in paper chemistry at the Institute of Paper Chemistry, then in Appleton, Wisconsin. However, after a summer and a semester in residence, he decided that studies in applied chemistry did not satisfy his interests in fundamental science. Accordingly, in January of 1953 he undertook graduate studies in organic chemistry at the then Iowa State College at Ames, where he joined the research group of Professor Henry Gilman, already internationally known in the field of organometallic chemistry. For his studies of the chemistry of azaaromatic heterocycles, especially with respect to organometallic reagents, he was awarded the Ph.D. degree in organic chemistry in March of 1956. Nine scientific articles and a survey in Chemical Reviews resulted from his doctoral studies, during which he held fellowships from the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and Procter and Gamble.

In March of 1956 he was awarded a competitive national postdoctoral fellowship from the Union Carbide Corporation to study in the laboratory of Professor Karl Ziegler at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mülheim (Ruhr), Germany, who had recently made revolutionary discoveries in the fields of organometallics and polymerization. The significance of such findings is seen in the joint awarding of the Nobel Prize to Ziegler and to his Italian codiscoverer, Giulio Natta, soon thereafter (1963). Eisch's work with the Ziegler group was eventually published in 1962 in two articles in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and this research experience was to form an exciting and promising starting point for his own independent scholarly research program during his academic career. After a year in Ziegler's institute in April of 1957 John Eisch could have remained another year. However, he decided that the one-year period had already given him maximum exposure to Ziegler Chemistry and he was moreover eager to commence his own academic career. He therefore elected to spend the five months until the fall semester of 1957 at the European Research Associates Laboratory in Brussels, Belgium, Union Carbide's laboratory modeled along industrial research lines. Here Eisch could observe how an industrial research laboratory makes a multidisciplined attack on a problem such as Ziegler-Natta polymerization. Although research at the ERA was impressively organized, he could see that it was too structured for him and his wide-ranging curiosity. Consequently, he declined the offer of a research position at either ERA or Carbide's facilities in the States. Instead, he accepted an assistant professorship at St. Louis University for the fall of 1957, where Chairman and Professor George W. Schaeffer was making great efforts to improve the chemistry department. Thus, Schaeffer's illness and death about a year later darkened the department's prospects markedly. Consequently, Eisch moved on to the University of Michigan in 1959 and over the next four years firmly established his research program in organometallic chemistry and successfully guided three doctoral candidates to their degree. Future advancement for an organometallic chemist in a tradition-bound department such as Michigan's remained dim and physical facilities limited, so in 1963 he accepted an associate professorship at the Catholic University of America, where the faculty was being considerably expanded and the physical facilities completely renovated. Here he was able to form a large research group of 10 or more doctoral and postdoctoral coworkers, publish some 75 research articles over the space of nine years and guide 14 students to their Ph.D. degree. From 1966 till his departure in 1972 he was Ordinary Professor of Chemistry and Head of the Chemistry Department.

A fiscal crisis at Catholic University in the wake of unanticipated campus security expenditures motivated John Eisch's last change of university in 1972, when he assumed the chairmanship of the Department of Chemistry in the State University of New York at Binghamton and remained in this position until 1978. Finally, in recognition of his international reputation in organometallic chemistry and olefin polymerization mechanisms he was named Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in 1983, a SUNY-wide honor bestowed by the State University of New York. He has served in that rank for almost 20 years thus far, guiding during his whole career the research of over 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral associates, 20 master's candidates and countless undergraduate assistants, as well as teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in organic and in organometallic chemistry.

Professional Activities and Distinctions

Over his professional career he has held the following fellowships and visiting professorships at other institutions:

He has been active in the following societies and held the following external positions:

Sigma Xi; Phi Lambda Upsilon; Phi Kappa Phi; American Chemical Society; American Institute of Chemists; National Institutes of Health Fellowship Panel (1968-70); National Research Council Fellowship Panel; Editorial Board, Journal of Organometallic Chemistry; Editor with R.B. King of the series, Organometallic Syntheses; Consultant: previous - Union Carbide, Ethyl, Conoco, Gray Industries, Stauffer, Texas Alkyls, Akzo, Mobil, Witco, Solvay, DSM; present: Boulder Scientific and GenSci OrthoBiologics.

He has been accorded the following awards and distinctions:

Research and Scholarly Activities

Throughout his career Professor Eisch's research has embraced a variety of synthetic and mechanistic studies in organometallic and heterocyclic chemistry. Interests in organometallic chemistry include the following aspects: 1) the stereoselective formation of carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds by means of magnesium or aluminum alkyls; 2) fundamental studies of Ziegler-Natta catalytic alkylations and oligomerizations, essential to industrial polymer and hydrocarbon technology; 3) the utility of subvalent organonickel reagents in organic synthesis, especially in the homogeneous desulfurization of sulfides and thiols (important for future fuels and chemical processes based on coal); 4) the generation of subvalent early transition metal reductants and their utility in organic synthesis and catalysis; and 5) unusual pericyclic or anionic rearrangements, such as those interconverting boron and aluminum compounds or the 1,n shifts observed in silicon and lithium compounds.

Heterocyclic studies have been concerned with the synthesis and properties of unusual rings containing metals or nitrogen as ring constituents. Illustrative are five-membered (borole) and seven-membered (borepin) boron rings, which display antiaromatic and aromatic character, respectively. Furthermore, nitrogen heterocycles isoelectronic with azulenes have been found to display chromoisomerism (tautomeric equilibria between colorless and highly colored isomers), and the highly reactive, antiaromatic dibenzazapentalene has been synthesized for the first time. The results of such studies have shed light on pi-electron interactions between carbon centers and various potential pi-bonding metals or nitrogen centers.

A most recent developing interest in Professor Eisch's research has been the study of how amino acids, sugars and lipids could have been evolved chemically on the prebiotic earth.

His published works comprise over 335 scientific articles, communications, reviews, monographs, patents and invention disclosures, including the books, The Chemistry of Organometallic Compounds (Macmillan, 1967) and Organometallic Synthesis, Volume 2 (Academic Press, 1981), and as co-author with R.B. King for Organometallic Syntheses, Volume 3 (Elsevier, 1986) and Volume 4 (Elsevier, 1988).

Selective, representative recent publications are the following:

1. "Electronic and Steric Design of Novel Group 13 Lewis Acids and their Synthesis via Metal-Tin Exchange Reactions", J.J. Eisch, P.O. Otieno, K. Mackenzie and B. Kotowicz, in Advances in Chemistry Series, No. 822, P.J. Shapiro and D.A. Atwood, Eds., American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C., 2002, pp. 88-103.

2. "Alkylation of Transition Metal Salts as a Fertile and Versatile Approach to Olefin Polymerization Catalysts", J.J. Eisch, F.A. Owuor, P.O. Otieno, J.N. Gitua, X. Shi and A.A. Adeosun, in Future Technology for Polyolefin and Olefin Polymerization, M. Terano and T. Shino, Eds., Technology and Education Publishers, Tokyo, 2002, pp. 316-326.

3. "Carbon-Carbon Bond Formation via Oxidative-Addition Processes of Titanium(II) Reagents with pi-Bonded Organic Substrates. Reactivity Modifications by Lewis Acids and Lewis Bases", J.J. Eisch, J.N. Gitua, P.O. Otieno and X. Shi, J. Organomet. Chem., 624, 229-238 (2001).

4. "Early Transition Metal Carbenoid Reagents in Epimetallation and Metallative Dimerization of Unsaturated Organic Substrates", J.J. Eisch, J. Organomet. Chem., 617-618, 148-157 (2001).

5. "Mechanistic Comparison of the Nickel(0)-catalyzed Homo-oligomerization and Co-oligomerization of Alkynes and Nitriles", J.J. Eisch, X. Ma, K.I. Han, J.N. Gitua and C. Krüger, Eur. J. Inorg. Chem., 77-88 (2001).

6. "Lithium Chromium(I) Dihydride: A Novel Reagent for the Versatile Reductive Metathesis, Reductive Cyclization, Oligomerization or Polymerization of Diverse Organic Substrates", J.J. Eisch and J.R. Alila, Organometallics, 19, 1211-1213 (2000).

7. "Novel Organoaluminum Lewis Acids via Selective Aluminum-Tin Exchange Processes. Electrophilic Initiation by the Aluminum Halide and Consequential Nucleophilic Complexation by the Resulting Tin Halide", J.J. Eisch, K. Mackenzie, H.Windisch and C. Krüger, Eur. J. Inorg. Chem., 153-162 (1999).

8. "Novel Organoborane Lewis Acids via Selective Boron-Tin Exchange Processes. Steric Constraints to Electrophilic Initiation by the Boron Halide", J.J. Eisch and B.W. Kotowicz, Eur. J. Inorg. Chem., 761-769, (1998).

9. "Organometallic Chemistry sans Organometallic Reagents: Modulated Electron-Transfer Reactions of Subvalent Early Transition Metal Salts", J.J. Eisch, X. Shi, J.R. Alila and S. Thiele, Chem. Ber./Recueil, 130, 1175-1187 (1997).

10. "Single Electron Transfers in the Reactions of Carbanions", J.J. Eisch, Res. Chem. Intermed., 22, 145-187 (1996).


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