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Vagner (or Wagner), Egor Egorovich

VAGNER (OR WAGNER), EGOR EGOROVICH

(b. Kazan, Russia, 30 November 1849; d. Warsaw, Poland, 27 November 1903), Chemistry.

Vagner was a student of A. M. Zaytsev and of A. M. Butlerov and was one of the founders of the chemistry of terpenes. He graduated from the University of Kazan in 1874. In his student works, published with Zaytsev, he proposed a new and effective method for the zinc-organic synthesis of secondary alcohols. In 1882 he became professor at the Novo-aleksandr Agricultural Institute and, in 1886, at the University of Warsaw.

Vagner’s scientific research dealt mainly with the natural mono- and bicyclic terpenes and with the synthesis and study of the properties of alicyclic compounds. From 1882 to 1888 he developed a universal method (Vagner oxidation) for determining the number and location of ethylene bonds in the organic molecule by means of hydroxylation with weak aqueous solutions of potassium permanganate to form glycol. It was this simple and fruitful technique that made it possible in the nineteenth century to study the structure of complex unsaturated organic compounds. Despite the later appearance of new methods of establishing molecular structure, especially Harries’ ozonization method, the Vagner oxidization has remained important. Having determined the structure of the molecules of limonene and its acid derivatives, Vagner then clarified the more difficult question of the structure of pinene. He specified the structural formulas of pinol, terpene, terpineol, camphene, borneol, isoborneol, carvone, carone, carvestrene, sobrerol, sobreritrite β-camphors and other terpenes. Prior to his work, erroneous formulas had frequently been assigned to these substances.

Having discovered the genetic connection between the hydrocarbons of the terpene series and their acid and halogen derivatives, Vagner established the mechanism of many reactions of terpenes. His discovery of the camphene regrouping of the first class was important for the theoretical development of organic chemistry. This regrouping was later studied in detail by Hans Meerwein and is now called the Vagner-Meerwein rearrangement:

Vagner’s proposal for the rational classification of terpenes on the basis of their structural-chemical peculiarities is now accepted by contemporary chemistry.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Original Works. Vagner’s writings include K reaktsii okislenia nepredelnykh uglerodistykh soedineny (“On the Oxidization Reaction of Unsaturated Carbon Compounds”; Warsaw, 1888); “Zur Constitution der Pinens,” in Berichte der Deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft, 24 (1891), 2187–2190; and “K stroeniyu terpenov i im rodstvennykh soedineny” (“On the Structure of Terpenes and Related Compounds”), in Zhurnal Russkago fiziko-khimicheskago obshchestva, 26 (1894), 327–362: and 28 (1896), 56–108, 206, 398, 484–501.

II. Secondary Literature. On Vagner and his work see A. E. Arbuzov, “Egor Egorovich Vagner,” in Trudy Instituta istorii estestvoznaniya i tekhniki, Akademiya nauk SSSR, 4 (1952), 46–61, and V. Lavrov, “Egor Egorovich Vagner, zhizn i deitelnost” (“Egor Egorovich, Life and Work”), in Zhurnal Russkago fizikokhimichesakgo obshchestva pri Imperatorskago St. Pertersburg universitete, 36 (1904), 1337–1339.

V. I. Kuznetsov

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