Reinhard Hoffmann sets out to 'demystify' the art of synthetic planning

Elements of synthesis planning

R W Hoffmann 

Berlin, Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag 2009 | 227 pp | ?26.99 (SB) 

ISBN 9783540792192 

Reviewed by Gordon Florence 


From an undergraduate learning perspective the concept of synthesis planning or retrosynthesis can appear to be a daunting prospect. The idea of being asked to think backwards for many is a big leap, despite the vast majority already possessing a well-stocked chemical toolbox and being more than capable to explain a multitude of complex mechanistic transformations. In Elements of synthesis planning, a reworked translation of his original German text, Reinhard Hoffmann sets out to ’demystify’ the art of synthetic planning, which is an essential and vital skill practised every day throughout the worldwide organic chemistry community. 

In 12 clear and logical chapters, Hoffmann takes the reader from the basic concepts of retrosynthesis (use of synthons, identifying key bond disconnections, unmasking symmetry elements etc) to dedicated chapters on the application of chiral building blocks, strategic planning of complex synthetic sequences and the synthesis of polycyclic ring systems. In the final chapter, all these concepts are brought together to elegantly compare several individual approaches to one of five representative natural products, highlighting the tactics and strategies employed.  

As such, this text would ideally complement an advanced undergraduate course on complex organic synthesis, which is beyond the level of most standard organic chemistry textbooks. It would also prove highly useful to postgraduates at the beginning of their research careers in synthesis to inspire creativity and maybe put their ideas into practice.