William D. Emmons

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William D. Emmons
Born (1924-11-18)November 18, 1924
Died December 8, 2001(2001-12-08) (aged 77)
Nationality American
Institutions Rohm and Haas
Alma mater University of Minnesota
Known for Horner-Wadsworth-Emmons reaction

William D. Emmons (November 18, 1924 – December 8, 2001) was an American chemist and published with William S. Wadsworth a modification to the Wittig-Horner reaction using phosphonate-stabilized carbanions, now called the Horner-Wadsworth-Emmons reaction or HWE reaction or Horner-Wittig reaction


Emmons studied at the University of Minnesota and served in the Pacific in World War II and avoided being drafted for the Korean War by working for the Redstone Arsenal Research of Rohm and Haas where he worked until his retirement in 1989.


In work undertaken in collaboration with Arthur F. Ferris, Emmons reported that in situ generated trifluoroperacetic acid was capable of oxidising aniline to nitrobenzene,[1][2] an observation which pioneered the applications of this peroxy acid as an oxidising agent in organic chemistry.[3] Emmons went on to discuss the preparation of trifluoroperacetic acid[4] and numerous applications of the new reagent, including:[3] oxidation of nitrosamines to nitramines;[4] the Baeyer–Villiger oxidations of ketones to esters;[5] and the conversion of alkenes to epoxides (in the presence of a buffer)[6] or to glycols (without the buffer).[7]


  1. ^ Emmons, William D.; Ferris, Arthur F. (1953). "Oxidation Reactions with Pertrifluoroacetic Acid". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 75 (18): 4623–4624. doi:10.1021/ja01114a539. 
  2. ^ Emmons, William D. (1954). "Peroxytrifluoroacetic Acid. II. The Oxidation of Anilines to Nitrobenzenes". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 76 (13): 3470–3472. doi:10.1021/ja01642a030. 
  3. ^ a b Chambers, Richard D. (2004). "Functional Compounds Containing Oxygen, Sulphur or Nitrogen and their Derivatives". Fluorine in Organic Chemistry. CRC Press. pp. 242–243. ISBN 9780849317903. 
  4. ^ a b Emmons, William D. (1954). "Peroxytrifluoroacetic Acid. I. The Oxidation of Nitrosamines to Nitramines". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 76 (13): 3468–3470. doi:10.1021/ja01642a029. 
  5. ^ Emmons, William D.; Lucas, George B. (1955). "Peroxytrifluoroacetic Acid. V. The Oxidation of Ketones to Esters". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 77 (8): 2287–2288. doi:10.1021/ja01613a077. 
  6. ^ Emmons, William D.; Pagano, Angelo S. (1955). "Peroxytrifluoroacetic Acid. IV. The Epoxidation of Olefins". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 77 (1): 89–92. doi:10.1021/ja01606a029. 
  7. ^ Emmons, William D.; Pagano, Angelo S.; Freeman, Jeremiah P. (1954). "Peroxytrifluoroacetic Acid. III. The Hydroxylation of Olefins". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 76 (13): 3472–3474. doi:10.1021/ja01642a031.