Willy Leimgruber

1930 – 1981

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Dr. Willy Leimgruber, a research chemist and director of chemical research at Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., the pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetics company in Nutley, N.J., died of a heart attack on July 7, 1981 at the age of 50. Dr. Leimgruber, a native of Zurich, received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at the E. T. H. in Zurich working with Professor Albert Eschenmoser on a new method for the synthesis of tropinones and the synthesis of colchicine. In 1959, he moved to the United States as a postdoctoral research associate with Professor R. B Woodward at Harvard where he was involved with completing the synthesis of chlorophyll. He spent his entire 20 plus professional career at Hoffmann-La Roche. Early in his career at Hoffmann-La Roche he developed syntheses of the cactus alkaloids anhalamine, anhalidine, anhalonidine, and pellotine. He isolated, characterized, and synthesized anthramycin, a new antitumor antibiotic and was involved with the development of fluorescamine: a reagent for assay of amino acids, peptides, proteins, and primary amines in the picomole range. Today, he is best known for the development of the eponymous Leimgruber–Batcho indole synthesis from an ortho-nitrotoluene and N,N-dimethylformamide dimethyl acetal. He was an editor of Organic Reactions for volumes 20 – 24 (1973 – 1976).

Dr. Leimgruber was survived by his wife, the former Hope Heenan; a son, William; a daughter, Janet; his mother, Clara Kupferschmid of Zurich, and two brothers, Willibald and Bernhard Voelkin, also of Zurich.