Monday, March 13, 2017

RIP Lloyd Conover

This New York Times obituary for the inventor of tetracycline was quite good: 
Lloyd Hillyard Conover was born on June 13, 1923, in Orange, N.J. His father, John, was a lawyer; his mother, the former Marguerite Anna Cameron, was an artist. His interest in chemistry began in childhood when he watched his father mix cement to repair a retaining wall. 
“There was something about the physical change in matter that really fascinated me,” he said in an interview for this obituary. 
To feed his curiosity, he devised science projects with items he found around his house. In one instance, he took his mother’s pots and pans and melted down lead left behind by a plumber to make a miniature cannon that fired lead pellets, powered by steam. 
He entered Amherst College in 1941 to study chemistry, but his education was interrupted by World War II. He spent three years in the Navy, serving on an amphibious ship in the Pacific and rising to lieutenant junior grade. 
After the war, he returned to Amherst, and he received his bachelor’s degree in 1947. He received his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Rochester in 1950 and went to work for Pfizer, where salaries were higher than in academia, to support his family.
I was surprised to learn that tetracycline had its first-in-human trials within a year of Dr. Conover making it. That seems dramatically faster than modern times. 

4 comments:

  1. Not that I'm taking potshot but Dr. Conover's work towards the tetracycline was a synthetic modification of original terramycin names Aureomycin that had chloro group and originally discovered by American Cyanamide in forties by Dr. Yellapragada Subbarow and his colleagues. Simple removal of chloro group gave the des-chloro analog that became a product for Pfizer in seventies. When Pfizer filed for patent they had some issues in that American Cyanamide and others challenged them and this was not a smooth process. But when Pfizer did won it already lost steam that Dr. Conover laments after he retired from Pfizer. Go read it all in NY Times obituary.

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    1. There is no "e" in Cyanamid. All chemists make this mistake, as did I initially, when spelling the name of this former company.

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  2. I always thought that tetracyclines were disocovered by Benjamin Duggar.

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    1. Benjamin Duggar was an inventor on the original chlorotetracycline patent, the precursor from which tetracycline is derived.

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