Dr. Alfonso Romo de Vivar

Since the 50's, Dr. Romo de Vivar started his studies in Chemistry on one plant that is toxic to cattle (Helenium mexicanum, known as Chapuz), and managed the isolation and description of the molecular structures from the responsible substances of the toxicity, which were called mexicaninas A, B, C. etc. The results of these investigations were published in the most prestigious journals in Chemistry (Chem. & Ind. 1959, 882; Ciencia (Méx) 1961, 21, 33-35; J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1961, 83, 2326; Tetrahedron 1963, 19, 1359), and at present they are internationally considered as classic publications in this knowledge area. As an example of the scientific quality of these works, it can be said that one of them has received more than one hundred quotations by other authors (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1963, 85, 19).

Thanks to the intensive and sustained work of Doctor Romo de Vivar, his work group was placed, since the 60's, at the world vanguard in the research of natural products called sesquiterpene lactones, realizing significant contributions to the knowledge of natural products from the genres Zaluzania, Ambrosia, Artemisia, Parthenium, among many more. These isolated substances and characterized by Doctor Romo de Vivar received common names stemmed from the plants, for instance: zaluzaninas, (from species of the Zaluzania; Tetrahedron 1967, 23, 4265) the franserine (from Franseria; Can. J. Chem. 1968, 46, 1539) among others, and through the years they have been considered as classics of the chemical literature, many articles and books referred to these substances, without specifically mentioning the works published by Romo de Vivar.

In search of the alternative sources of natural steroids, Romo de Vivar discovered, during the 70’s, that the seeds of diverse species from the genre of Yucca have steroidal glycosides (Rev. Latinoam. Quím. 1975, 6, 94; Carbohydrate Res. 1977, 5, 127) that can be transformed into higher value-added substances. Additionally, it was observed that the seed oil is edible. Whereas the flowers and fruits of Yucca filifera (known as Chinese Palm) are consumed as food, the seed could be used in an integrated manner: for the production of edible oil and to obtain steroids. The results generated in this work provide evidence of outstanding effort in the pursuit of rational utilization of a plant species (patent 139297, 1979).

Through careful and detailed analysis of the structure and chemical reactivity of the isolated substances, Romo de Vivar proposed biogenetic relationships of certain subsets of natural products, and a series of chemical transformations made possible to obtain the evidences to the biogenetic interrelationships proposed and they have clarified the forming paths of the substances (Chemistry Letters 1984, 1237, J. Org. Chem. 1984, 49, 2994).

Through the years, Romo de Vivar has made exemplary chemical studies from many natural species, some of them of economical or medicinal interest, which includes species of the genres Artemisia, Salvia, Chenopodium, Viguiera, Zinnia, Bahia, Tithonia, among many more. Recently, he has bearing in the chemical study of species from the genre Senecio and taxa similar, which constitute an important group of plants species remarkable complexity, and where he has made chemotaxonomic contributions of relevant significance (Rec. Res. Devel. Phytochem. 2000, 4, 61-74; J. Nat. Prod. 2003, 66, 225-229).

Some parameters allow pondering the relevance of the contributions to science from Romo de Vivar; they are the number of citations that have received his scientific contributions (around 1900 citations by other authors) and the journals prestige where his citations are published. Without a doubt only few authors in the experimental chemistry field have accumulated such a number of citations. He was founder of the Latin American Journal of Chemistry, where he published an important amount of works, which raised the level of this publication, until it was placed among the thousand journals more quoted by Chemical Abstracts in 1980, among the nearly 100,000 publications covered.

The disciples of Romo de Vivar have influenced the fields of research, teaching, services and chemical industry on a remarkable manner, some of them are widely recognized Scientifics. On the other hand, his teaching work is evident through the many courses at pre-and postgraduate that he taught continuously since 1958, and for four decades his activity as a promoter is reflected in numerous publications of popular sciences. His contributions in congress, symposia and other national and international events as speaker and lecturer sum more than 100 participations. Moreover, he’s author of various books, which nowadays are regarded as unique in the chemical field of Spanish speakers.

Throughout his remarkable academic career, Dr. Romo de Vivar has been recognized on several occasions. It is considered one of the founders of Science in Mexico (Formadores of Science June 2003 edition of the UNAM), his biography has been reviewed by the National University (Nuestros Maestros, edition of the UNAM, 1996, 3, 17 -24), and as a token of deep appreciation and admiration from the scientific community, the Journal of the Chemical Society of Mexico published a booklet in his honor (Rev. Soc. Chem. Mex., 2003, 47, 101-209) composed of scientific contributions devoted to the distinguished academic. He was awarded with the Prize of the old Academy of Scientific Research (nowadays Mexican Academy of Science, 1968), the Prize Banamex of Sciences and Technology (1975), the National Prize of Chemistry Andrés Manuel del Río (1977), the Prize of Pharmaceutical Sciences (1977), the Prize National University in Research in Natural Science (1987), the Prize Syntex-IOCD of research in Chemistry (1990), among others. He is Emeritus Researcher of the National University (1992), and Emeritus Researcher of the National System of Researchers (1994).

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