Total Syntheses from A to Z
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Total Synthesis - An Introduction
As a scientific discipline, total synthesis has its formative roots in the mid-19th century, primarily as means for confirmation of structure. In those early days, the analytical tools available to the synthetic chemist were extraordinarily basic, so following in nature's footsteps was essential in the process of characterisation. In the centuries which have passed, the phenomenal advances in spectroscopy and crystallography have left few unknowns in the course of structure determination - so, why in this day of such powerful analytical tools, do we continue to emulate nature?
Perhaps the most important rationale is as a 'real-world' test-bed for new synthetic methodology. Sometimes the methodology is well-understood through model studies prior to the total synthesis; other times, the methodology is created as a means to an end during the synthetic campaign. But nothing quite confirms the utility of a new method than it's employ in the critical stages of a total synthesis.
Another excellent grant-winner is confirmation, scale-up and analogue synthesis of recently uncovered biochemically active species. To fully understand their potential therapeutic potency, the vanishing small samples obtained via in-situ isolation are rarely enough - so we rely on synthetic means to keep the biologists busy.
But perhaps the most important impact a total synthesis can have is the excellent training it provides for the next generation of synthetic chemists - both in their chemical education, and also in the softer skills of problem-solving and project management.