The Woodward–Doering/Rabe–Kindler Total Synthesis of Quinine: Setting the Record Straight

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Abstract

In 1918, Paul Rabe and Karl Kindler reported the three-step conversion of d-quinotoxine into quinine. In 1944 Robert B. Woodward and William von Eggers Doering reported the total synthesis of homomeroquinene and d-quinotoxine from 7-hydroxyisoquinoline. Based on the transformations by Rabe and Kindler, Woodward and Doering asserted the “Total Synthesis of Quinine” (the title of their 1944 and 1945 papers). In 2000 and 2001, Gilbert Stork concluded that the claim by Woodward and Doering is a “myth” because they had synthesized only homomeroquinene and d-quinotoxine; no synthetic quinine had been made in Cambridge. In fact, Rabe and Kindler never published the experimental details of their conversion of d-quinotoxine into quinine. This Review presents the results of a detailed examination of the synthesis of cinchona alkaloids, and previously unpublished material combined with unpublished material and numerous interviews give insight into the lives of the personalities in this nearly 100-year saga.

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