The First Century of Ketenes (1905–2005): The Birth of a Versatile Family of Reactive Intermediates


  • Professor P. Federlin is thanked for helpful comments and a copy of Ref. [7 b]. The assistance of Annette Allen, Professor Jean-Marie Lehn, and Dr. Valerij Nikolaev is gratefully acknowledged, as is financial support by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Petroleum Research Fund administered by the American Chemical Society, and a Killam Fellowship from the Canada Council for the Arts.


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An explosive history: Diphenylketene was isolated and identified by Staudinger (see photo) in 1905, as the first example of this class of highly reactive compounds. Others had previously generated these species, but missed the opportunity to claim their discovery. This Essay provides an enlightening view of the history behind these useful reagents.