Department News

In memory of Chemistry Professor Emeritus Andrew S. Kende

March 29, 2018

imageIt is with great sadness that we share the news that Professor Andy Kende passed away suddenly on the 20th of February, 2018. He was 85 years old. Andy Kende was the Charles F. Houghton Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus and a former Department Chair. At Rochester, Andy had the reputation for demanding scientific excellence and would not settle for less than the pursuit of science at the highest level. He mentored over 50 postdocs and 50 students during his career.

Andrew Kende entered the College of the University of Chicago at 16.  His research career started under R.B. Woodward at Harvard University, where his doctoral thesis research elucidated new pathways for the reactions of aliphatic diazo compounds with ketenes and led to the first spectroscopic characterization of pure cyclopropanone.  During an NRC-American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship (1956-57) with D.H.R. Barton of Glasgow, he demonstrated the structure of the major photoisomerization product of dehydroergosteryl acetate, an excursion into natural products which continued during his early years at Lederle Laboratories.

In 1968, Kende accepted an appointment as Professor of Chemistry at the University of Rochester.  At Rochester his research program focused on two principal themes: pericyclic reactions and total synthesis.  During his time at Rochester Kende’s work on pericyclic reactions included the photochemistry of β,γ- enones and homoconjugated dienones, singlet oxygen chemistry, carbene reactions, rearrangements of cyclic polyenes, methylenecyclopropane isomerization and fragmentation, and the chemistry of isobenzofurans, mesoionic oxyallyl species, and phenalene derivatives.  His studies in total synthesis include the construction of the antineoplastic alkaloid camptothecin from furfural, new methods for nucleophilic acylation and transition metal coupling reactions, development of selective photochemical methods in synthesis and new routes to the anthracycline antibiotics, the alkaloids dendrobine and sesbanine, and to the intricate tricyclic framework of the taxane diterpenes. 

As Bob Boeckman recalls, “In 1980 Andy Kende recruited me to Rochester to join he and Dick Schlessinger as part of a group doing complex molecule synthesis.  I will always be grateful to him for this opportunity which has done so much for my career and me personally.  Andy demanded excellence from all of those around him; students, staff, and faculty.  His vision, imagination, and vast knowledge of organic chemistry were a valuable resource and set a standard which I tried to emulate.  His selfless service to the field of organic chemistry was exemplary, a standard for all to strive for.”

Professor Kende's research led to a 1978 Guggenheim Fellowship and to numerous invited lectures, including several Gordon Conference lectures, NSF Workshops in Natural Products Chemistry (1972 and 1974), and the International Symposium on Anthracycline Chemistry (Winnipeg, 1978), as well as plenary lectures at the Royal Society of Chemistry (Cambridge, England, July, 1983), the International Conference on Heterocyclic Chemistry (Tokyo, August, 1983), and the Medicinal Chemistry Symposium (Cambridge, England, September, 1983).  In 1986, he was awarded a Japan Society for Promotion of Science Fellowship.  Professor Kende also received a Cope Senior Scholar Award in 2003.

During his 50-plus years as a member of the American Chemical Society, Andrew Kende has made significant contributions to the science of organic chemistry in its broadest sense.  Andrew Kende will be missed by not only us here at Rochester, but also the greater chemistry community worldwide.

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