Gary Grunewald, Professor Emeritus in the medchem department, died on February 20th, age 85.

I did not know Gary personally very well. He attended my “chalktalk” when I interviewed at KU, and I saw him a couple of times at departmental dinners. I did, however, inherit a large number of his books, like the Quantum Mechanics for Organic Chemists written by his doctoral advisor Howard Zimmerman. He had interests in organic photochemistry, like I do, and he was an early adopter of using computers for organic synthesis and design of bioactive compounds.

As an interesting coincidence, when I was an undergraduate visiting researcher at the Slovak Institute of Technology, I investigated a synthesis of barrelene and its orbitals, primarily from research done by Grunewald in Zimmerman’s lab, published in this classic JACS paper.

Besides books, my lab took over hundreds of compounds prepared by the Grunewald group over decades of research activity at KU. One of my favorites is the tetrameric cyclooctatetraene, with its two Cope rearranging units at each end, and many stereogenic carbons. It’s a chiral compound and crystalizes in P1-bar space group.

Cyclooctatetraene tetramer crystal structure

These compounds and books are a great source of inspiration for my research. Thank you, Gary.