The Tragedy of Hamlet, Son of an Organic Chemist of Denmark

Author(s): 
Ronald G. Brisbois
Author Affiliation: 
Macalester College
Journal: 
Journal of Chemical Education
Year: 
2004
Volume: 
81
Pages: 
502
Abstract: 

Once faced with structure–reactivity relationships in the context of nucleophilic substitution at sp3 carbon, introductory

organic chemistry students must compare and contrast the various attributes and ramifications of SN2 versus SN1 reaction

pathways. The dramatic (even melodramatic) way in which some students ask such comparative questions inspired a

parody of Hamlet’s famous to be or not to be soliloquy. Herein, Hamlet (the son of an organic chemist of Denmark) is the

surrogate of any and every student as he uses a thoroughly Shakespearian approach to sorting out some of the key

distinguishing features of SN2 versus SN1 reactions.

Abstract reproduced with permission. Copyright: 
American Chemical Society Wiley Elsevier
Organic topics: 
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