Ivan Liudvigovich Knuniants

Knuniants, Ivan Liudvigovich


Born May 22 (June 4), 1906, in Shusha, in what is now Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. Soviet organic chemist. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1953; corresponding member, 1946). Engineer major general. Hero of Socialist Labor (1966); member of the CPSU since 1941. Head of a laboratory at the Institute of Heteroorganic Compounds of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Graduate of the Moscow Higher Technical School (1928), where he studied under A. E. Chichibabin.

Knuniants proposed new methods of introducing different radicals into the piridine nucleus and discovered a method of preparing γ-acetopropyl alcohol through the interaction of acetoacetic ester and ethylene oxide. The latter method was employed in the manufacture of antimalarial preparations and is currently being used for the industrial synthesis of vitamin B1. Knuniants is the author of the first published work on the polymerization of caprolactam into a linear polymer. Certain amino acids and polypeptides synthesized by him containing a di-β-chloroethylamine grouping proved to be effective chemo-therapeutic agents in the treatment of certain types of cancer (the preparation Lofenal obtained by Knuniants and his associates has been introduced into clinical practice).

In 1958, Knuniants developed a technique for preparing adiponitrile by hydrodimerization of acrylonitrile; he also sought a method of obtaining β-propiolactone, polypeptides containing sulfhydryl groups, and α-thioglycidic acids. In addition he developed a method of adding hydrogen fluoride to aliphatic oxides to form a C—F bond, synthesized organofluorine compounds using electrochemical methods, and studied the features of the double bond in fluoro-olefins and explained their various degrees of reactivity. Knuniants and his colleagues synthesized compounds containing nitro, amino, hydroxy, alkoxy, ester, and other groups in addition to fluorine. He devoted a series of studies to the synthesis and transformations of hexafluoroace-tone, hexafluorodimethyl ketene, various compounds containing a perfluorovinyl group, fluorine-bearing sulfones, and fluorinated carbanions. His studies have also included an investigation of the products formed by the interaction between perfluoroacyl fluorides and tertiary amines, as well as of many new rearrangements. The founder of a scientific school of organofluorine compounds, he has patented more than 200 inventions, many of which are used in industry.

Knuniants has been awarded the Lenin Prize (1972), the State Prize (1943, 1948, 1950), the Order of Lenin, three other orders, and several medals.


Nesmeianov, A. N., and M. I. Kabachnik. “Akademik Knuniants.” In the collection Puti v neznaemoe. Pisateli rasskazyvaiut o nauke, collection 4. Moscow, 1964.