Papers That Got Off to a Good Start

August 6th, 2015

This week, an interesting discussion on Twitter was sparked by the publication of this paper in JACS:



That’s a great first sentence to a paper, and soon people chimed in with other memorable examples.


Tehshik Yoon pointed out this review on C-H activation as his favorite:



…which Nicolas Fanget countered with a microbiology paper from 2000 that begins with a quote from Monty Python’s Flying Circus:



My personal favorite belongs to the man himself, R.B. Woodward, who began a 1963 paper with the simple exclamation, “Strychnine!”:



Are there any other chemistry papers out there with memorable openings?

18 Responses to “Papers That Got Off to a Good Start”

  1. ChemGary Says:

    Although not a journal article, I still recall fondly the opening lines of the chapter “Quarter Century Progress and New Horizons in Micelles” by Fred Menger in Micelles, Microemulsions, and Monolayers (1998):

    Micelles! Who could deny that these small, elusive, self-assembled systems are the flagship of colloid chemistry? No other member of the colloidal domain has received such attention by such an international group of scientists using such a diverse array of analytical tools. It is a source of pleasure that micelle research, pursued in seven continents, is never denied sunlight or summer.

  2. Paul Bracher Says:

    From Twitter:

  3. David Says:

    Not chemistry, nor, arguably, science, but my favorite intro was from Larry Summers’ unpublished paper criticizing the efficient markets hypothesis. It began: “There are idiots. Look around”.

  4. Joe Q. Says:

    Arndtsen taught me college level inorganic chemistry — nice guy, but I don’t remember him being particularly poetic.

  5. Dcambie Says:

    Also, quite nice,

  6. Mic Says:

    How about ? It was a fun experiment to run and writeup and the subsequent discussions it generated were very interesting.

  7. Nick K Says:

    I believe Joseph F Bunnett once published a JOC paper written entirely in verse. (Sorry, can’t find it as I have no access to ACS journals)

  8. Steventm Says:

  9. Anon Says:

    Jon Clardy starting off a natural products review with the famous Donald Rumsfeld “unknown-unknowns” quote.

  10. Nick K Says:

    Steventm: Thank you for posting the exact reference!

  11. Hap Says:

    The paper is also discussed in The Name Game which is a fun book if you can get it.

  12. Joannes Says:

    The Pfizer paper that reports Varenicline (Coe et al., J. Med. Chem. 2005, 48, 3474-3477) is interesting of its historical reference:
    Within 20 years of its introduction to Britain in 1584,
    King James I scorned “tobacco taking” as a “vile and
    stinking custome” that is “hurtfull to the health of the
    whole body”.1 In the ensuing 400 years, we have learned
    that although other tobacco ingredients cause the negative
    health effects of smoking, it is the nicotine in
    tobacco that produces dependence and maintains smoking

  13. Bart Says:

    The author bio sketch is the best part.

  14. bad wolf Says:


  15. UndergradChemist Says:

    Speaking of which, look what popped up in JACS Just Accepted today…
    “A Versatile Strategy for Shish-Kebab-Like Multi-Heterostructured Chalcogenides and Enhanced Photocatalytic Hydrogen Evolution”

  16. Paul Bracher Says:

    Another from Twitter:

  17. Paul Bracher Says:

    And another:

  18. Anonymous Says:

    The metaphor extends all the way to a priceless Fig. 1:

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