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Science of Synthesis (Houben-Weyl)

Science of Synthesis is the 5th edition of the Houben-Weyl Methods in Organic Chemistry series. It is a highly organized and authoritative collection of authored reviews on organic synthetic methods. Chapters contain experimental procedures, background information, and extensive yet selective bibliographies. Its purpose is to provide a direct path into the mass of primary literature on a wide range of organic reactions and products. The base set (48 volumes, 2000-2010) contains information on over 265,000 reactions and 29,000 experimental procedures.


Each volume covers a specific class of compound, based on the target molecule to be synthesized. Volumes are organized into Categories, which are in turn broken down into narrower specialty volumes (see table).

Category Volumes Coverage
Category 1 1-8 Organometallics
Category 2 9-17 Hetarenes and Related Ring Systems
Category 3 18-24 Compounds with Four and Three Carbon-Heteroatom Bonds e.g. Nitriles, Isocyanides and Derivatives; Acid Halides; Carboxylic Acids and Acid Salts; Esters, Polyesters, and Lactones; Peroxy Acids; Amides and Derivatives; Lactams; Ketenes
Category 4 25-33 Compounds with Two Carbon-Heteroatom Bonds e.g. Aldehydes; Ketones; Heteroatom Analogues of Aldehydes and Ketones; Quinones and Heteroatom Analogues; Acetals; Arene-X Compounds; X-Ene-X, Ene-Hal, and Ene-O Compounds
Category 5 34-42 Compounds with One-Heteroatom Bond e.g. Alcohols; Peroxides; Sulfides, Selenides, and Tellurides; Amines, Ammonium Salts, Haloamines, Hydroxylamines, and Hydrazines; Organophosphorous Compounds
Category 6 43-48 Compounds with All-Carbon Functions e.g. Polyynes, Arynes, Enynes, and Alkynes; Cumulenes and Allenes; Arenes, Quasiarenes, Annulenes, and Polyenes; 1,3-Dienes; Alkenes and Alkanes

After 2010 SOS was continued by quarterly Knowledge Updates which contain updates of specific chapters from the original set. There are also occasional Reference Library topical monographs.


Each volume has keyword and author indexes. Cumulative keyword and author index volumes were published for some Categories, but UT has only the index for Category 2 (vols. 9-17, Hetarenes). There are no compound/product-level indexes. Since SOS is arranged hierarchically by product class, you can browse for compounds by class/volume, and use the hierarchical tables of contents to identify a volume of interest, then consult the keyword index of that volume.
SHORTCUT: Download this PDF file of the complete tables of contents (14MB), and search it using your PDF reader.

SciFinder has indexed most SOS chapters as general reviews, but not at the individual substance level. Knowledge Update chapters were only indexed in 2010-11.

Houben-Weyl, 4th Edition, 1952-2003

The 4th Edition was titled Methoden der organischen Chemie and was published from 1952 to 2003 (in German until 1990). There was a base set and an extensive supplementary (E) series that began in 1982. With 160 volumes and over 160,000 pages, the 4th edition was much larger than its successor and can still be consulted for information that was not updated in SOS. A brief printed User's Guide offers a handy list of volumes with the compound types covered in each. Volumes E23 parts O-P are a synopsis of the HW structure and detailed tables of contents in English for all volumes.

Vol. 16 of the 4th edition base set comprises indexes by experimental procedure and substance class for the 4th edition and E-Series volumes 1-5 and 11 (i.e. through about 1986). Volume E23 is a multi-part structural formula index of reaction products by compound class, but it is quite difficult to use. As with SOS, access is best achieved by using the hierarchical organization to identify a volume and then looking in that volume directly.


Science of Synthesis and the 4th edition of Houben-Weyl are available in the Chemistry Library. The volumes are non-circulating. [Catalog Record] Please contact the chemistry librarian if you need help finding or using this tool. UT-Austin no longer subscribes to the Science of Synthesis online product.


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