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Academician Ionel Haiduc

Academic calm in a life governed by science.

Motto: “What is impossible to achieve in a single work, becomes possible throughout a
lifetime.” – Lucian Blaga

Academician Ionel Haiduc belongs to a vast scientific field, defined by the study
of the substances composition and their changes under certain circumstances; he is
among those outstanding personalities who, constantly and profoundly keep moving on
the universal orbit of chemistry.
His fusion with this discipline was expressed by a more than four decades career
dedicated to scientific interests.
Academician Ionel Haiduc with his generous intellectual background has
thoroughly studied the chemical compounds behavior, especially the chemical reactions,
distinguishing with pertinence the changes in the configuration of atoms, molecules and
supramolecular structures. His intuition and competence as a reputed specialist enabled
him to notice the conditions of chemical changes both in the laboratory and the universe,
where chemical processes keep the balance between the life’s elixir organic and inorganic
and the metamorphosis of the environment.
His valid scientific self has its roots in the years he was a student at “Babes-
Bolyai University – Chemistry Department” where he proved to be a profound student
and scholar under the guidance of some distinguished mentors. In 1959 he graduated and
got a degree in chemistry, together with solid knowledge and a promising perspective.
Inorganic chemistry was the starting point of his career; the idea of integrating the
inorganic chemistry cycles into a distinct and coherent system was expressed in a study
published in 1960, with 1,000 bibliographical references. The title of the study was
“Introduction to the chemistry of inorganic cycles” and it became in 1970, a two volume
monography, published in London. Another reference work was “The Chemistry of
Inorganic Homo- and Heterocycles”, in collaboration with D.B.Sowerby, published in
two volumes by the Academic Press, London, New York, in 1987.
His profound knowledge and his talent to express simply and elegantly the most
arid issues of the descriptive and functional chemical system, dominated his academic
career: he was first head of the laboratory (1959), assistant lecturer (1962), lecturer
(1964), assistant professor (1969) and since 1973 to the present, professor doctor at the
Chemistry Department of Babes-Bolyai University Cluj.
He was appointed “science candidate” as a result of the Doctor’s degree he was
awarded in 1964 (at the age of 27) by the Institute of Fine Chemical Technology “M.V.
Lomonosov” in Moscow; his doctoral dissertation was about the chemistry of inorganic
and silico-organic polymers, under the guidance of academician K.A.Andrianov. Later on
he attended post-doctoral studies on the silico-organic and organometallic chemistry
(1966-1968) at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, U.S.A. with professor Henry Gilman
and the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, U.S.A with professor R.B.King.
Ionel Haiduc also proved his competence in other directions such as: co-
ordinative and organometallic chemistry, supramolecular and organometallic chemistry of
inorganic cycles, biological active compounds of metals, nomenclature and
systematisation in inorganic chemistry, science management and policy.
The isometric spectrum of the coordinative chemistry offered him the opportunity
to study the structure of the coordinative mono and polinuclear metal compounds, the
reciprocal influence of ligands and the stereochemistry of coordinative compounds.
Having always new ideas and concerns, academician Ionel Haiduc overpassed the
stagnation in one of the classic, traditional domains of chemistry, looking for new
directions, as a result of interdisciplinary sciences, the interference between organic and
inorganic chemistry.
His research work also focused on the third chemistry, the organometallic
chemistry, where he contributed by using some phosphorous and arsenic combinations, as
well as the possible applications of the organometallic compounds synthesized and tested
in Cluj, in cancer chemotherapy.
Among his other studies in the field of organometallic chemistry we should also
mention: “Chemistry of organometallic compounds” (1974), “Basic Organometallic
Chemistry” / with J.J.Zuckerman, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and New York (1985),
translated into Greek in 1990, Organometallics in Cancer Chemotherapy – with C.
Silvestru, 2 vol., CRC Press, Boca Ratton, USA (1990, 1991).
Another field of the scientific investigation is represented by supramolecular
chemistry; thus, the volume “Supramolecular Organometallic Chemistry” (with
F.T.Edelmann) published in Wiley VCH, Weinheim, 1990 represents a program for
developing the organometallic chemistry in accordance with the principles of its creator,
Jean-Marie Lehn, a Nobel Prize winner.
At the same time, academician Ionel Haiduc is the founder of the supramolecular
organometallic chemistry school, in Cluj-Napoca. In accordance with the status of the
contemporary scientist, Ionel Haiduc is also deeply involved in the social problems, often
taking attitude when the environment or the “infrastructure” of the human habitat are
endangered.
Over 340 studies and articles (out of which 260 in ISI Magazines), as well as
several chapters of books, prove the high quality information, the exigency of profound
and solid theoretical and practical arguments.
His whole activity was acknowledged throughout the time by international titles,
awards, diplomas, etc: Fullbright Scholarship (USA, 1966), „G. Spacu” prize on the
Romanian Academy (1974), Member of honor of the Romanian Academy (1990), Full
member of the Romanian Academy (1991), Humboldt Research Scholarship
(Magdeburg, University, Germany, 1997), „Pro Colaboratione” Medal, The Magyar
Academy of Science, Debrecen Department (1999), Diploma of Honour of the Academy
of Science of the Republic of Moldavia (1999), Citizen of Honour of Cluj-Napoca
(1999), the Order “Steaua Romaniei” in rank of High Officer, awarded by the President
of Romania (2000), Member of Honour of Academia Europea, London (2002), Doctor
Honoris Causa, the Politechnical University „Gh. Asachi”, Iaşi (2003) and the
Politechnical of University from Timişoara (2004). Academician Ionel Haiduc also had
the quality of visiting professor abroad: NSF Visiting Scientist, Chemistry Department,
University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA (1992), European Commission Visiting
Scientist University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Spain (1993
and 1998), Visiting Professor, Instituto de Quimica, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de
Mexico (1993-1994), Visiting Professor, Instituto de Quimica, Universidade Federal de
Sao Carlos, Brazil (1993 and 2004), Consultant, Department of Chemistry, University of
Texas at El Paso, Texas, USA (1997), Gauss Visiting Professorship Anorganisch
Chemisches Institut, Göttingen Universität, Germany (1998-1999 and 2002), Visiting
Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Texas at El Paso, Texas, USA (2000-
2001 and 2004), Humboldt Visiting Professor.
As a first rank contemporary personality of Cluj, academician Ionel Haiduc was
elected on April 5, 2006, president of the Romanian Academy.
His high level scientific activity was also proved by the quality of member in
several international prestige committees: from 1993 up to the present - International
Council of Main Group Chemistry, between 1991-1993, in Alliance of University for
Democracy (Board of Directors), and in 2004 – European Science Foundation,
Evaluation Panel of the COST Program in Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science and
member of the editorial staff of some important reviews and magazines: “Synthesis and
Reactivity in Inorganic and Metal-organic Chemistry” (New York), „Main-Group Metal
Chemistry” (London-Tel Aviv), „Metal-Based Drugs” (London), „Science and
Engineering Ethics” (Guildford, UK), „Revue Roumaine de Chimie” (Bucharest),
„Revista de chimie” (Bucharest), „Progress in Catalysis” (Bucharest), „Studia
Universitatis „Babeş-Bolyai” Chemia”. In 2006,the president of the Romanian Academy
Ionel Haiduc was awarded by the Romanian Presidency the National Order „Steaua
României” in rank of Great Cross.
The projects of the scientist became true achievements in his entire work and the
results of his research; Ionel Haiduc approached the important combinatory issues in
present chemistry and science.

„There is a certain rhythmicity and periodicity in everyone’s life. The change
between some periods is related to the fact, that the human being does not cover the
plenitude and does not find his enthusiasm all the time. Nobody can fully understand the
mystery and unicity of the human being. The human being is more mysterious than the
universe; in fact, it is the universe. The man is a microcosm including everything in
himself.” - Nicolai Berdiaev

„Academician Ionel Haiduc, I would suggest to start our dialogue with the
Romanian academic movement at present, and maybe you can give us some details about
the Cluj branch of the Academy, whose president you are.”
Ionel Haiduc: “The Romanian Academy tries to regain its former prestige. For 10-
15 years before 1989, the Academy was almost left to natural process of disintegration,
but after 1990 it came to life again. On January 1st, 1990, there were only 70 members,
most of them over 70 years. On the other hand, there was no research institution, while
some publications of the Academy were below the standards. At present, the research
activity was resumed, some research institutes are back again under the authority of the
Academy. At the same time, the Academy undergoes a process of evaluation of its
activity, so as to determine which are the excellence centres, where are the points that
need financial support by grants that is through a competitive means. Competition
becomes more and more important, implying the identification and support of real values.
Regarding the institutes from Cluj, these are very different: for instance, the Linguistic
Institute and the Institute for history are the biggest ones, the others are smaller and
sometimes more heterogeneous; but their concerns and research activity belong to the
general activity of the Academy.”
“We are now trying to go into some biographical details; so, the first question
would be: who were your mentors, where and how did you get your training as a
chemistry specialist?”
Ionel Haiduc: “My training was a gradual one, starting from school, high school,
where among my teachers I must mention Mrs. Cecilia Marian, my chemistry teacher
who allowed me to work in the school laboratory during my spare time. It was a good
laboratory at “Emil Racoviţă” high school, and that is how I became aquainted with
laboratory work before I became a student in chemistry.
I can’t forget my primary school teacher Mrs. Sopa, (today 85) whom we, her
former pupils are still visiting now and then.
During my student years I also had some remarkable professors, the most
outstanding was Candin Liteanu, who not only encouraged me, but also gave me a
research subject, which later on became, I should say, the obsession of my life and career.
It is about the inorganic polymers, a quite new issue at the time. Starting from this, I
came to some very interesting things in my career.
My second mentor is professor Ion Cădariu from the physical chemistry
department, who taught me scientific rigour and research approach. I always kept him in
the highest esteem; he kept his dignity as a professor and a man. The strange part is that
both my most admired professors had different specialties from mine. Mr. Liteanu was
professor of analytic chemistry; professor Cădariu of physical chemistry.
In inorganic chemistry, the field of my later career, my mentor was professor
Raluca Ripan, a highly esteemed scientific personality of that time, member of the
Academy, president of Cluj-Napoca department of the Romanian Academy.
Since my student years I used to read a lot especially in my line of profession,
owing to professor Liteanu. There was no place abroad where I went without visiting a
university library. In this respect, I may say that its libraries represent one of the
civilization criteria of a country. In some countries, the libraries are in disorder, the
periodicals are not kept in their proper order. In Anglo-Saxon countries, the libraries are
in perfect order, the collections are complete, and the service is of good quality. Each
library has its own charm and is interesting to appreciate a country after its libraries.
Throughout my entire career I kept learning all the time and consequently I
changed my field of interest for at least three times: first, it was the chemistry of
inorganic cycles, then the organometallic chemistry and then the supramolecular
chemistry. These change were a logical transition from one to the other, at the same time
with the changes and trends in chemistry.”
“After this period of training, there followed the university career; would you
please, give us some details on your professional development?”
Ionel Haiduc: “I graduated the Chemistry Department of the University in Cluj,
with the speciality inorganic chemistry; afterwards I had the opportunity to work in some
famous laboratories abroad such as: the laboratory of academician Andrianov in Moscow,
which was well known in the U.S.A. even from the 60’ies. His research studies and
books (some of them connected with industry, satellites, military applications, etc.) were
translated into English. I also had the opportunity to work with Professor Henry Gilman,
one of the founders of organometallic chemistry in the U.S.A., with Professor Bruce King
also a well known specialist in a new branch of organometallic chemistry. I want to
emphasize the fact, that every time when I returned after my staying abroad, I did not
continue with what I had been working there, but I approached new research project
according to the possibilities at home and to my own ideas and concerns.
It would be more comfortable to address myself to some colleagues, so as to get
into professional details, but still I must mention that organometallic chemistry is
considered “the third chemistry”, a link between organic and inorganic chemistry. Thus, I
found out that is very challenging to look for new directions where the personal
contribution is more important and remarkable than in a classical field of research. This
implies to keep up with latest information and knowledge.”
“These investigations were followed by studies and papers; would you like to
mention some of them?”
Ionel Haiduc: “I’d like to start with the books, as I mentioned before I am very
found of books and libraries. My first book was “Introduction to the chemistry of
inorganic cycles” (the cover of the book is not to my taste, but the publisher didn’t ask for
my opinion) in 1960, a year after graduating the university; it was in fact my graduation
diploma, with over 1,000 bibliographical references. That means I had read as a student,
during 5 years, more than 1,000 scientific works. It is known that there are several cyclic
combinations in the carbon structure (e.g. benzene) and I was very surprised, when I
discovered during my first year as a student, that there were inorganic cycles, without
carbon. It seemed to me something very unusual; so, I started reading everything about
this subject and the result was the book published in Romanian, by the Academy
Publishing House. The editors knew nothing about me and they were surprised to see a
22 years young student as being the author of a scientific book. I still remember this
moment with amusement…
I sent the book abroad, to some professors who worked on this issue, but on
different ideas, such as the chemistry of phosphorous, silicon, borine; few of them
thought of integrating the chemistry of inorganic cycles into a distinct, coherent system.
This was my attempt in the book. Later on, Professor M.Becke from the University of
Heidelberg said: “this book by I.Haiduc, though published in Romanian, had some
influence in the West”. The book was translated into Polish, then into English and was
published in London under the title “The Chemistry of Inorganic Ring Systems”, in 1970.
By that time, the Romanian version of the book had 2 volumes and 1,200 pages. The
English version became known throughout the world, I even found it in Brazil.
Owing to this book I became a member of the scientific committee of the first
international symposium on the chemistry of inorganic cycle, which took place starting
with 1975.
Later on, the book had to be supplemented: in 1987 together with my friend and
colleague, Dr.Bryan Sowerby from Nottingham, England, I edited two additional
volumes.
Meanwhile, I was also interested in a new branch of chemistry, the organometallic
chemistry. I started teaching this subject at the University in Cluj and I wrote a book on
it, in 1974, which was awarded the Academy Prize and was translated into English for the
use of the American and German universities. The book was published in Berlin, and was
then translated into Greek. The cover is the same with that of the English edition; only the
title and the text are in Greek. I have a strange feeling, when looking through the pages of
the book I understand only the formulas.
The American Publishing House CRC Press, Florida has recently asked me to
write in collaboration, a new book on the use of the organometallic compounds in cancer
chemotherapy. We have studied and synthesized some compounds and we also tested
them, here in Cluj; they do not have a direct anti-tumour action, but are active and they
might be a future perspective in this direction.
Besides the above-mentioned books, together with a group of students and
candidates for the doctor’s degree, we have published a number of original studies in
specialized magazines in the country and abroad. We also contributed to certain chapters
of organometallic chemistry using phosphorous and arsenic combinations linked with
organometallic groups.
For some years, owing to Jean-Marie Lehn, 1987 Nobel Prize winner, there is a
new science, supramolecular chemistry, the science of materials. This is the chemistry of
some structures whose molecules are organized in a certain way, as “bricks” for some
complex chemical architecture. In classic chemistry, the role of “bricks” is played by
atoms linked through chemical links; in supramolecular chemistry the molecules are used
instead, linked through weaker, but more important forces, called intermolecular
interactions.
As we became aquainted with the new chemistry, we realized that some of the
combinations synthesized and studied by us, proved to contain structural elements of
supramolecular organization. We were the first to connect organometallic chemistry with
supramolecular chemistry; we must also mention the collaboration of some colleagues
from abroad, which helped us to determine the molecular and crystalline structures by X-
ray diffraction. This method is at the present, a usual one; our collaboration with some
colleagues from abroad is still working and whenever we had such opportunities we also
offered our help (some new substances we synthesized in our lab, our research results)
and consequently, we published together the results of our works in England, Germany
and U.S.A.”
“As I know, you yourself were a visiting professor at different western
universities. Maybe you would like to mention some of them.”
“Having published in many prestigious magazines from abroad I became known
to the specialists in the field and so, I was invited, with an assistant of mine, in Mexico at
Universidad Nacional Antonoma de Mexico, where a group of candidates to the doctor’s
degree wanted to work in the field of organometallic phosphorous and arsenic
compounds. We worked within a program of the National Research Council from
Mexico, organized in so-called “excellence patrimonial department”, for foreign
researchers. Though a big and relatively reach country, Mexico has adopted only the last
10 years a scientific research program. During one year and a half while I worked there,
we published with our Mexican colleagues about 15 studies. After we left the country
they kept on working on the projects and recently dr. Cea-Olivares (one of our co-
workers), in a conference in the USA said: “We have had foreign specialists, some
colleagues from Romania, who significantly contributed to the development and high
standards of our laboratory.”
“I was also invited to Brasil, for two weeks; in such short period of time I had
daily lectures on supramolecular organometallic compounds.”
“Now, coming back home, your university activity is also well known, you were
the first rector after 1989.”
“Yes, in January 1990 I had the honour to be elected by the University Senate as
the first post-revolution rector. It was the start of a new way, to the autonomy and reform
of the university, and up to 1993 when I left for Mexico, I did my best so that the
university should follow the necessary steps under the circumstances. However, I gladly
gave up this honourable title, in favour of the modest activity as a chemist.”
“At present, on your working table there are probably some new projects…”
“On my table there are lots of papers and library notes, excerpts, photocopies,
articles, waiting to be processed. My greatest project now, is to write a book, this time a
treaty on inorganic chemistry, in Romanian; I have it in my mind, but not yet on paper.”
“So, you are working on it.”
“I still gather documents and materials I think of the way it will look like, but
everything has to be written.”
“From the resources you have, is there anything left for other activities?”
“There was a time when I had a passion for philately. It may seem amusing, but I
used to collect stamps with chemistry subjects. There is an entire history of chemistry and
illustrious chemists in these stamps and I think my lectures on this issue were the most
successful ones. I consider it a duty from time to time, for the man of science, to speak
simple and attractive about science.”
“Finally, what question would you address to academician Ionel Haiduc?”
“Surprising question! I would ask him if he were to start again, would he do the
same thing or not?”
“How would you answer?”
“I think I would do the same thing, maybe better, more efficient.”
“In the hope we will meet again and talk sometime in future about the aspects of
your professional, scientific activity and why not about your book, we thank you.”

Eight years later….

“Since our last meeting eight years ago, the intellectual activity of academician
Ionel Haiduc has been very prolific. What benefits did you bring to chemistry and
especially in the field of supramolecular organometallic chemistry?”
“There’s been eight years, full of events, but that promised book has not yet been
written… Meanwhile, I wrote another, more urgent one, more important. I told you eight
years ago, that there are two directions I was concerned about in chemistry:
organometallic chemistry and the new supramolecular chemistry. There were two distinct
domains; however, when studying more carefully the too fields, I found out they have
some common points: the organometallic compounds which build up supramolecular
structures. The result was a new book “Chimia organometalică supramoleculară”
(published in English, “Supramolecular Organometallic Chemistry”). I wrote the book in
Germany, with professor Frank Edelmann, in Magdeburg during my Humboldt study; the
book was published in 2000, by Wilog – VCH, with a “Foreword” signed by Jean-Marie
Lehn, a Nobel Prize Winner, who created the supramolecular chemistry. I quote: “The
authors have to be congratulated for the service they do to the community of chemistry,
because they take the flame of supramolecular chemistry to a new field, thus bringing on
the stage the supramolecular organometallic chemistry.
A review of the book, published by a magazine of the American Society of
Chemistry stated: “The supramolecular organometallic chemistry did not exist as a
distinct branch until the book written by Haiduc and Edelmann was published”. After
reading this, a friend of mine, told me: “This was worth living for.” And I think he is
right.”
“You spread the seed of chemistry throughout the world. Could you estimate the
consequences and the results?”
“I had lectures or conferences on supramolecular chemistry in Brazil, the U.S.A.
(El Paso, Texas), Germany (Gottingen), Spain, Malaysia, Singapore, Argentina.
Interesting places, where the new chemistry is flourishing.”
“I wish this dialogue had as final point a moment of self reflection of academician
Ionel Haiduc, at your inner life allows at…”
“It might be a sign of old age, the fact that I was overwhelmed by honours during
the last few years: member of Academia Europea, member of honour of the Academy of
Science of the Republic of Moldavia, Doctor Honoris Causa of the Technical University
“Gheorghe Assachi” of Iasi and of the Chemistry Society from Romania. All these are
highly honourable titles, but they make me think about a lot…”
After being elected President of the Romanian Academy, April 2006.

“Within the background of our previous interactions and communication with a
view to illustrate the intellectual elite from Cluj in the volume “Contemporary
personalities from Cluj” published with the support of the Romanian Academy, I have
now the pleasure to meet you again, as President of the Romanian Academy. How did it
go, how did you accept the vote that made you the winner?”
“I accepted to apply for this title at the suggestion of many members of the
Academy, short time before the elections. In the second tour there were only two
candidates (out of 4) and the result is known. Anyway it is encouraging that I have the
large support of the members of the Romanian Academy.”
“In the history of the Romanian Academy how many Presidents were from Cluj?”
“George Bariţ was founder of the Academy and president in 1853; then Emil
Racoviţă (1926 – 1929) and Alexandru Lapedatu (1935 – 1938) were also presidents.”
“Mr. President, how would you define the “trophic chain” of the Romanian
academism, and what is the configuration of the Romanian Academy in the first years of
the 3rd millennium?”
“In April, this year, the Romanian Academy celebrated 140year. It was born in
1866, under the name of The Romanian Literary Society; in 1867 it became the
Romanian Academic Society. In 1879 this was transformed, by royal decree, into “a
national institute named Romanian Academy”, the aim of this “institute” was “to promote
the national language and history, literature, science and arts”. Today, the Romanian
Academy has 14 scientific departments.”
“What do you consider could be done that the Romanian Academy should get
more involved and what is the role of such an institution in a society so troubled by a too
long transition?”
“The Academy may have a consulting role for the state’s institutions, through its
experts, when is asked for, or when needed, in questions of national importance. This has
already been done by ESEN programs (evaluation of the national economy), or by the
programs on the Study of Major Risks. There are important documents for the interested
institutions, in this respect.”
“As a man of science also concerned by the social-economic and political
problems of the world, what do you think: where is humanity going to – a true progress
or an imminent catastrophe? Which are the main sources of conflict and the great
contemporary crisis?”
“This is an issue for a world congress at the U.N.O. It depends on the wisdom of
humanity if there‘ll be progress or catastrophe. The powers of the world should think
about the future of humankind.”
“What are the sources of development in your opinion, those of Asia, including
China, Japan, South Korea, etc… or those of the Occident, sometimes stagnating, if not
in decline?”
“I’m not an economist, so I don’t have an answer to your question. As a modest
chemist I have other concerns. I leave such major issues to the wisdom of other people.
The Western world has still supremacy in scientific research, but Asian countries come
strongly from behind, with great ambitions and potential.”
“What are the most spectacular developments in science and technology and, of
course, chemistry, in the last years?”
“Chemistry has an essential part in dominating nuclear energy, in space programs
(fuels, materials), in modern electronics (semi-conductors), biology (molecular biology)
and non-conventional sources of energy (the new American program of the “economy
based on hydrogen” up to 2050). There have been progresses in medicine, chemotherapy,
but the expectations are still high.”
“How will you “reconcile” science and culture in the Romanian Academy and
what are the terms of a balance?”
“Science belongs to culture in the large meaning of the word. We think of culture
only in terms of literature, arts and other creative forms. Anyway, the Romanian
Academy should keep a balance and at the same time should keep to its initial aims: the
cultivation of the national language and history.”
“Which are the contacts you have in mind, for the Romanian academism?”
“In the country, the most important contacts are with the educational system
(especially universities), the state’s authorities all the cultural and scientific institutions.
Abroad, we must consolidate our relations with academies and similar institutions with
international scientific and cultural organizations, we must be present in their activity.”