Louis Frederick Fieser organic chemist invented militarily effective form of napalm

Louis Frederick Fieser – inventor of napalm

Article on Louis Frederick Fieser

Biography & Contributions

Louis Frederick Fieser was an organic chemist born on April 07, 1899 - July 25, 1977. Fieser was invented militarily effective form of napalm. Fieser's keen interest in and knowledge of quinones lead him to make a major contribution to the chemistry and synthesis of the quinonoid natural substance vitamin K in the late 1930s.

He rapidly explored than three hundred compounds were prepared and examined, and concomitant studies of the mode of action and degradation in the organism were carried out.

Fieser worked on blood-clotting agents including the first synthesis of vitamin K, synthesis and screening of quinones as antimalarial drugs, work with steroids leading to the synthesis of cortisone, and study of the nature of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Fieser had two chemical reagents named for him. Fieser's reagent is a mixture of chromium trioxide in acetic acid. Fieser's solution is an aqueous solution of potassium hydroxide, sodium hydrosulfite,and sodium anthraquinone b-sulfonate used for the removal of oxygen from a gas stream. In 1939, Fieser involved in a competitive race for the structure elucidation of Vitamin K.


Napalm is a mixture of a gelling agent and petroleum or a similar fuel for use in an incendiary device. It was initially used against buildings and later primarily as an anti-personnel weapon that sticks to skin and causes severe burns when on fire. Napalm was used in flamethrowers, bombs and tanks in World War II. It is believed to be formulated to burn at a specified rate and to adhere to surfaces to increase its stopping power.


Quinones are oxidized derivatives of aromatic compounds and are often readily made from reactive aromatic compounds with electron-donating substituents such as phenols and catechols, which increase the nucleophilicity of the ring and contribute to the large redox potential needed to break aromaticity. Quinones are electrophilic Michael acceptors stabilized by conjugation. Depending on the quinone and the site of reduction, reduction can either rearomatise the compound or break the conjugation.


Steroids comprise a group of cyclic organic compounds whose basis is a characteristic arrangement of seventeen carbon atoms in a four-ring structure linked together from three 6-carbon rings followed by a 5-carbon ring and an eight-carbon side chain on carbon 17. Steroids along with phospholipids function as components of cell membranes. Steroids such as cholesterol decrease membrane fluidity. Steroid biosynthesis is an anabolic metabolic pathway that produces steroids from simple precursors.

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