Ian Fleming has made many innovative contributions to new synthetic methods and to the understanding of organic reactions. His major contribution has been to pioneer the application of organosilicon compounds in organic synthesis. He was the first to show that vinylsilanes undergo regiospecific electrophilic substitution, subsequently used widely by others. Several important related reactions involving allylsilanes, allenylsilanes, propargylsilanes, silyl enol ethers and dienol silyl ethers showed the power a silyl group has to control the outcome of carbocationic reactions. He has also developed the phenyldimethylsilyl cuprate reagent, which allows the flexible introduction of silyl groups into many types of molecule. Coupled with this is the development of the silyl-to-hydroxy conversion that allows phenyldimethylsilyl groups to be changed into hydroxyl groups with retention of configuration. Using these reactions, he has added effective methods for the stereocontrol of reactions using silicon to the regiocontrol developed earlier. In addition, his popular books on molecular orbitals and on spectroscopy have had a major influence by carrying these topics to a broad audience of organic chemists throughout the world.
Emeritus Professor of Organic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge