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Serratosa i Palet, Fèlix

Barcelona 1925 - 1995. Chemist.

In 1991 Serratosa i Palet received the Catalan Foundation Prize for Research. In 1992 he was awarded the Narcís Monturiol Medal for scientific merit by the Catalan government for his work in the field of methodology of organic synthesis, and in 1993 he was named a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts Barcelona. 

Serratosa i Palet studied at the Balmes Institute and at Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Jesuitas Casp school between 1935 and 1944, but his education was interrupted by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. He graduated in Chemical Sciences from the University of Barcelona (UB) in 1949. He then became Doctor of Sciences in 1953 after completing his thesis under the supervision of Professor Josep Pascual i Vila at the University of Barcelona, but defended it at the University of Madrid – compulsory in those dark years of autarchy. His thesis work looked at the condensation of orthoesters with activatedmethylene groups.
 
In 1955 he moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, as a postdoctoral researcher for Professor N. A. Milas. Herehe contributed to the study of anti-rickets vitamins, and was introduced to the pioneering research on organic synthesis design by R. B. Woodward (who won a Nobel Prize in 1965).
 
He returned to Barcelona at the end of 1957 and the following year obtained a position as a collaborating scientist to the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) at the Alonso Barba Institute (later named the Juan de la Cierva Trust). In 1971 he was named professor of research at the institute, where he remained until his death, undertaking a vast quantity of research work and teaching directly related to organic synthesis: retrosynthetic analysis, rational design, the computerisation of retrosynthesis and the synthesis of natural products and ex novo molecules. As a humanist, he also wrote a number of essays and articles on metaphysical topics within science, on the relations between science and humanistic cultureand the religious transcendence of man, some of which was published in the book  Khymós (Ed. Alhambra, Madrid, 1969). He gave classes on organic synthesis at the UB (1968-1973) and at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB)(1973-1978),and published his ideas on the retrosynthesis dissection of an organic molecule in the book Hueriskó. Introducción a la Síntesis Orgánica [Hueriskó. Introduction to Organic Synthesis] (Ed. Alhambra, Madrid, 1975).
 
Serratosa i Paletsupervised 23 doctoral theses, training successful future researchers currently at universities and Catalan research institutions, and researchers at important chemical companies and chemical-pharmaceutical companies in Catalonia. He also managed to combine basic research with applied research. He published 99 pieces of research in journals highly-regarded for his speciality, and was internationally recognised for his research on an acetylenic approach to the synthesis of the patulin antibiotic – in which he was the first to make progress onan earlier retrosynthesis study on an organic molecule –, the intramolecular cycles of alquilpropargiliden malonic acid, the cyclopropanation of α-diazo ketones, the intramolecular cycle of bis- and tris-α-diazo ketones, the synthesis of bullvalene and semibullvalene, the synthesis and study of the reactivity of acetylene diether, the synthesis of deltic acid, squaric acid, semi-squaric acid, croconic acid and other oxycarbonate dianions, the synthesis of the by-products of triquinacene and triquinanes etc. These pieces of work were presented at a number of international speciality congresses and at a plethora of conferences.
 
He obtained funding, as part ofDr. Pascual’s team, from the Juan March Foundation (1958-1960), the OM Pharma laboratories (1960-1961), the Department of Agriculture of the United States of America (1964-1967),the Banco de Urquijo Studies Service (1968-1969) and later in lifefrom the Scientific and Technical Research Advisory Committee (CAICYT).
 
His later years were dedicated to disseminating his knowledge on the design of organic synthesis in the book Organic Chemistry in Action. The Design of Organic Synthesis(Elsevier Science Pub. B., Amsterdam, 1990) and the implementation of the CHAOS (Computerisation and Heuristic Applied to Organic Synthesis)programme with the help of the Organic Chemistry department within the UB Pharmaceutical Faculty. 
 
Serratosa i Palet died in Barcelona on the 11th January 1995. 
 
Prizes and honours
  • The Alquemia Prize from the Official School of Chemistry of Madrid, for the book Khymós(1966).
  • He was awarded a place in the Civil Order of Alfonso X, Ministry of Education and Science, 1967.
  • Catalan Foundation of Research prize, 1991.
  • Narcís Monturiol medal for scientific merit from the government of Catalonia, 1992.
  • Appointed member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts Barcelona, 1988.
  • Celebrating his achievements as a creator and driver of a Catalan school of organic synthesis,the Fèlix Serratosa Conference is organised every year in his memory, organised by the Catalan Society of Chemistry and the Spanish Royal Society of Chemistryand is attended by many prestigious national and foreign researchers.
Acknowledgements
This biography was written by Josep Font Cierco, biochemist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts Barcelona.
 

For more information

Alongside the list of his scientific work and books mentioned, you can find an exhaustive biography at the Catalan Foundation of Research Collection of Biographies, curated by Pere Bonnín. More information here.

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