Robert G. Bergman
University of California, Berkeley
Election Year: 1984
Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Membership Type: Member
Trained as an organic chemist, I investigated the mechanisms of organic reactions. That work led to the development of methods for the generation and study of unusually reactive molecules, such as 1,3-diradicals and vinyl cations. In 1972, Richard Jones and I discovered the thermal cyclization of cis-1,5-hexadiyne-3-enes to 1,4 dehydrobenzene diradicals, a transformation that has been identified recently as a crucial DNA-cleaving reaction in several antibiotics that bind to nucleic acids. In the mid-1970s my research included organometallic chemistry. My group in Berkeley made contributions to the synthesis and chemistry of several types of organotransition metal complexes and to improving our understanding of the mechanisms of their reactions. In this area, we have focused on migratory insertion and oxidative addition reactions, the chemistry of new dinuclear complexes, the investigation of organometallic compounds having metal-oxygen and nitrogen bonds, and the reactions of organotransition metal enolates. Our best known work is probably the development of soluble organometallic complexes that undergo intermolecular insertion of transition metals into the carbon-hydrogen bonds of alkanes and the use of liquefied noble gas solvents in the study of these reactions.