Grignard was the son of a sail maker. His character was described as having humble and friendly attitude. After attempting to major in mathematics, Grignard failed his exams and enlisted into the army in 1892. After one year of service, he went back to pursue mathematics at the University of Lyon and finally obtained his degree Licencié ès Sciences Mathématiques in 1894. In December of the same year, he transferred to chemistry and began working with Professors Philippe Barbier(1848-1922) and Louis Bouveault(1864-1909). Victor Grignard worked very closely with Philippe Barbier and their research was focused on organomagnesium compounds. They sought to synthesize alcohols from alkyl halides, aldehydes, ketones, and alkenes.
A couple of years later, Grignard made a remarkable discovery. He had heated a mixture of magnesium turnings, isobutyl iodide, and added dry ethyl ether to the mixture and a reaction was observed. The product is known as a Grignard Reagent. Named after him, this organo-magnesium compound (R-MgX) (R = alkyl ; X = Halogen) readily reacts with ketones, aldehydes, and alkenes to produce their respective alcohols in impressive yields. Grignard had discovered the synthetic reaction which now bears his name (the Grignard reaction) in 1900. In 1901, Grignard published his doctoral thesis titled "Thèses sur les combinaisons organomagnesiennes mixtes et leur application à des synthèses d‘acides, d‘alcools et d‘hydrocarbures". He became a professor at the University of Nancy in 1910. That same year, he and Paul Sabatier (1854-1941) were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1912. During World War I he studied chemical warfare agents, particularly the manufacture of phosgene and the detection of mustard gas. His counterpart on the German side was another Nobel Prize–winning chemist, Fritz Haber.
The Grignard reaction
Grignard is most noted for devising a new method for generating carbon-carbon bonds using magnesium to couple ketones and alkyl halides. This reaction is valuable in organic synthesis. It occurs in two steps:
Formation of the "Grignard reagent", which is an organomagnesium compound made by the reaction an organohalide, R-X (R = alkyl or aryl; and X is a halide, usually bromide or iodide) with magnesium metal. The Grignard reagent is usually described with the general chemical formula R-Mg-X, although its structure is more complex.
Addition of the carbonyl, in which a ketone or an aldehyde is added to the solution containing the Grignard reagent. The carbon atom that is bonded to Mg transfers to the carbonyl carbon atom, and the oxygen of the carbonyl carbon becomes attached to the magnesium to give an alkoxide. The process is an example of a nucleophilic addition to a carbonyl. After the addition, the reaction mixture is treated with aqueous acid to give an alcohol, and the magnesium salts are subsequently discarded.
^Newbold, Brian T. "Victor Grignard Ancestor of Organic Synthesis: Victor Grignard was a brilliant French chemist who became famous at age 29 for the discovery of the organomagnesium halides and their versatility in chemical synthesis. (Feature/Chronique)." Canadian Chemical News Oct. 2001: 25+. Business Insights: Global. Web. 16 Nov. 2018