Albert Eschenmoser begins the interview with a discussion of his early life and education. Born in Switzerland, he attended school in the canton of Uri. At the age of sixteen, he decided that he wanted to become a secondary school teacher, and attended an Oberrealschule in St. Gallen. He received his Maturität in 1944, and continued on to the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (ETH). Eschenmoser was encouraged to pursue chemistry, and—inspired by Leopold Ruzicka—concentrated on organic chemistry. His research focused on sesquiterpene chemistry. In 1949, he earned his diploma, and became a doctoral student under Ruzicka. His doctoral thesis addressed acid-catalyzed cyclization, and in 1951 he received his doctorate. Eschenmoser’s research interests then turned to the synthesis of colchicine, which his group accomplished in 1959. Next came vitamin B12 and the corrin ligand system. ETH collaborated with Robert B. Woodward’s Harvard research group on this project, and in 1972 they announced the success of the vitamin B12 synthesis. Eschenmoser concludes the interview with a discussion of research funding, his professional recognition, and the ramifications of the vitamin B12 synthesis.
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