Friday, May 11, 2007

Death of famous chemistry prof F.A. Cotton investigated

Officials are now labeling the death of famous chemistry professor F. Albert Cotton of Texas A&M "suspicious."

[article in TheEagle by Arena Welch.]

On a separate note, one recalls Cotton's run for the presidency of the American Chemical Society wherein he described his opponent as a mediocre mid-level industrial chemist.

Also separately, of issues of priority, whether in scientific literature OR in patents, one IPBiz reader wrote: I'm sure Cotton had over 1600 publications....but he had a large group of students, and they published every last piece of snot they could publish...(ie, lots of papers "which are the same thing", all they changed was a solvent, or a ligand from methoxy to ethoxy, etc. Just building his resume, building his "field" where everybody has to bow to him, he had done everything first.....) I did not see ANY Berkeley prof grind out multitudinous papers just be build resume: quality over quantity. The same IPBiz reader made points relevant to peer to patent: Cotton has claimed his M-M quadruple bonds were the strongest known....and this prof was cleaving the M-M bond with mild reagents! Cotton and his "school" (other academicians into quadruple bonds) trashed the young guy's papers as referees, or duplicated his work (seen in yet unpublished articles) and then submitted their "own work" at the same time holding up the Berkeley prof's referee work.....and then they wanted "both groups" to publish simultaneously. (Berkeley prof saw this misbehavior, because he was using a very "nonstandard solvent", and the same oddball solvent was in the "other" paper as well. Or the referee report would say "we failed to obtain the products the Berkeley guy is getting, but the referee paper would not use the oddball solvent.) IPBiz notes this is not unlike the plot line in the "Big Bang" episode of Law & Order, televised back in 1995. The "peer to patent" folks have no answer to this type of behavior. Finally, the IPBiz reader noted: For weekly Inorganic Seminar [at Berkeley], Cotton was invited. He sent back a scathing letter (which was posted on our public Inorganic Bulletin board), saying "it gives me great pleasure to turn down your generous offer to come and give a seminar".

Of the "conflict of interest" aspect inherent in peer to patent, IPBiz had previously posted the following text by a commenter:

However, peer review is performed not by professional editors, but mostly by well-meaning but not always highly motivated or appropriately recognized amateurs, and by potential rivals with territories to defend, offenses to avenge, and other axes to grind. These axes should be considered potential conflicts of interest that may compromise the reviewer's ability or motivation to remain impartial--but editors are not always equipped to check on a reviewer's possible conflicts of interest, so antagonistic, unfair, and careless reviews which would embarrass their authors if they were made public continue to be commonplace.

Of the last point, IPBiz notes that Terri Somers of the San Diego Union Tribune as well as California's FTCR have NOT been candid in NOT disclosing that Jeanne Loring 1) had filed a patent application in the area of embryonic stem cells, 2) which patent application had claims BROADER than those of Thomson / WARF and 3) which did not cite the work of Ariff Bongso, UNLIKE the '780 patent of Thomson.

Returning to Cotton, Wikipedia has discussion of Cotton's background, noting, among other things, that Cotton got his B.A. from Temple University. LBE notes that Cotton reminded LBE a bit of Milton Friedman.

***Other deaths of chemists
From scaredmonkeys (2 Feb 07): Top state investigators say they'll take a crack at solving the killing of Geetha Angara, a chemist found drowned in a Passaic County water treatment tank two years ago. The case has confounded Passaic County authorities, who sought help from the state Attorney General's Office following a drive for more investigative resources by legislators and Angara's relatives.(...)The Prosecutor's Office began investigating the death as a homicide after five state medical examiners concluded that "deep muscle injuries" around Angara's neck arose from an assault, said John Latoracca, chief assistant prosecutor for Passaic County. They also found that she was unconscious when she fell into the water.
From Asbury Park Press (2 Feb 2007): Two years after the body of a water company chemist from Holmdel was found at the bottom of a tank in a Passaic County water treatment plant, state investigators have begun working on the case at the urging of ...

From talkleft (8 Dec 2002): Very little has been written this week about the death of former West Virginia chemist and expert witness Fred Zain whose perjured testimony was responsible for putting hundreds in jail and even on death row. When Experts Lie tells his story well and links to the official investigative report on his despicable actions. Finally indicted, his trial was postponed indefinitely due to his having been diagnosed with cancer. He died last week at the age of 52.


Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

from chemeducator, reviewing a book:

Al Cotton presents his side of the controversy during his candidacy for the 1985 American Chemical Society presidency. The campaign became a cause célèbre when he sent a letter to ACS members branding his opponent “a mediocre industrial chemist.” He still maintains that this was “a precise description of him” but admits that he “shouldn’t have coupled those two adjectives” (pp 241–242).

8:46 AM  

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