Professor Franklin Davis joined the chemistry faculty at Drexel in 1968, was promoted through the ranks to a chaired professor, and then moved to Temple University in 1995.
At Drexel and Temple, Frank established active research programs in synthetic and mechanistic organic chemistry with emphasis on asymmetric transformations, molecular recognition and the synthesis and study of natural and unnatural products. He is the co-author of more than 235 publications in peer-reviewed journals, 19 book chapters, and has delivered over 200 invited lectures, including plenary lectures at National ACS Symposia, Fluorine Conferences, Gordon Research Conferences (Reactions and Process, Stereochemistry, Heterocyclic Chemistry, Natural Products), international symposia on the Organic Chemistry of Sulfur, Heterocyclic Chemistry, Heteroatom Chemistry and Asymmetric Synthesis.
Davis reagents are now well known and they were invented here in Philadelphia! In 1980 the N-sulfonyloxaziridine class of oxidizing reagents was discovered in Davis’ laboratories. These reagents were demonstrated to be unusually selective as well as being among the few reagents able to hydroxylate carbanions and oxidize enolates to alpha-hydroxy carbonyl compounds. The chemical community currently uses these reagents, now commonly referred to as “Davis” reagents or “Davis oxaziridines,” worldwide. A number are commercially available.
Sulfinimines (N-sulfinyl imines, RS(O)-N=CHR’), discovered by the Davis group, have emerged as one of the most important chiral imine building blocks for the asymmetric synthesis of amine derivatives found in many bioactive materials, alpha-amino acids, beta-amino acids, aziridines, etc. Sulfinimines provide a general solution to the problems of addition of organometallic reagents to chiral imines. Today these new “Davis” reagents are widely used by the synthetic community for chiral amine syntheses.
This very distinguished chemist received the Philadelphia Section Award in 1982. In 2006 he won a Cope Scholar award and the John Scott Award, a special award from the City of Philadelphia. Davis was presented the John Scott Award during a ceremony November 17, 2006 at the American Philosophical Society’s Benjamin Franklin Hall. He was honored “for his work in chemistry that opened up new experimental procedures to achieve the synthesis of important molecular structures.” The John Scott Award is given to “the most deserving” men and women whose inventions have contributed in some outstanding way to the “comfort, welfare and happiness” of mankind. They cited his remarkable reagents for opening new pathways of synthesis.
In terms of service, Frank is one of the people who always volunteers. He has been very active with the Division of Organic Chemistry for over 20 years, serving as program chair from 1988 – 1991, chairing the division in 1994, serving as a National Councilor and heading the committee on regional affairs within DOC.