Mario Betti: a Giant in the Chemistry Scenario of the Twentieth Century
The life of the chemist Mario Betti (1875-1942) is presented by focusing on the activity performed at the University of several Italian cities. Born in Bagni di Lucca, a small town in Tuscany, in 1897 he graduated in chemistry at the University of Pisa, under the supervision of Roberto Schiff, nephew of the famous Ugo. In 1900, he moved to the University of Florence, where he published a three component reaction which became known world-wide as the Betti reaction and, nowadays, represents a synthetic tool of increasing use. The product deriving from the reaction can be easily obtained optically resolved and used as ligand in catalysts of nucleophilic attack on carbonyl compounds. Since then, stereochemistry was the subject in which the most relevant achievements of the Italian chemist were made. After working in Florence, Betti spent a ten years long period at the University of Siena, where he covered the role of faculty dean and rector. In 1922 he was hired by the University of Bologna as successor of the famous Giacomo Ciamician. In this article the many merits of this open minded and farsighted man will be presented against a background with chemistry and chemists of the 20th century playing on the scene. The conclusion is reached that the chemical heritage of Mario Betti, after a long time from his death, appears richer than previously thought.
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