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Atta ur Rahman

Atta ur Rahman, Pakistani organic chemist (Delhi, British India 22 September 1942 –

Authored 970 publications, 151 books and 37 patents

Authored influential books

Biosynthesis of Indole Alkaloids (1983)

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (the first textbook to have a detailed discussion on 2D-MNR spectroscopy)

Stereoselective synthesis in organic chemistry


Discovered several hundred new natural products i.e. bioactive substances (alkaloids, saponins, withanolides, sesquiterpenes and triterpenoids) from plants as well as marine plants and animals many of which exhibited exciting biological activities including anti-oxidant, anti-epileptic, anti-leishmaniasis, anti-AIDS, immunomodulating, anti-asthmatic, analgesic, nematicidal and anti-cancer activities

Reported a number of binary and dimeric alkaloids from terrestrial and marine sources

First proposed that vinblastine may arise from a pentacyclic precursor alkaloid such as catharanthine

Obtained the first vinblastine derivative (1971)

Discovered high yield fragmentation of the hexacyclic 16-epi-19-s-vindolinine to a tricyclic indole (1983)

Proposed a theory of chemical basis of memory based on hydrogen bonding (2001)


Developed a new method for the determination of absolute configurations of chiral carboxylic acids, α-amino acids  amino alcohols, polynucleic acids and epinephrine isomers by partially or totally restricting their conformational flexibility through complexation with trinuclear metal complexes (1993)

With Y. Ahmad, T. Begum, I.H. Qureshi & K. Zaman. A novel rearrangement of papaverine derivative isoquino [1-2-b] quinazoline derivative. Heterocycles 26(7):1841, 1987  

With M. Ghazala, N. Sultan, M. Bashir & A.A. Ansari. A new synthesis of carbolines by metal-ion catalyzed reduction of N-imidotryptamines

With S. Firdous. A new approach to the synthesis of N-arylate aromatic amines: a new carbazole synthesis

With N. Waheed. Reductive cyclization of indolic imides. A new carbonile synthesis

With N. Waheed. A new one step synthesis of carbolines

With A. Basha. A new method for reduction of amides with zinc/ethanol

With A. Basha. A new method for conversion of tertiary aromatic amides into aldehydes

With A. Basha, N. Waheed & S. Ahmad. A new method for the reduction of amides to amines with sodium borohydride

With J.H. Mason. Improved total syntheses of dihydrocleavamines, 16-methoxycarbonydihydrocleavanine and 16-hydroxydihydrocleavanine 

Synthetic studies towards vinblastine and its analogues.VI. The Markovnikov addition of acetic acid to catharanthine by a modification of the Prevost reaction

PATENTS (incomplete)

Methods for the synthesis of vinblastine, 20-epivinblastine (vinrosidine), 15-hydroxy-20-deoxyvinblastine, vincristine and other novel intermediates. Patent 126852 (1978)

Patented many innovative procedures for rapid isolation of alkaloids


UNESCO Science Prize (1999)

Honorary Life Fellow, King’s College, Cambridge University (2007)