David Crich was born and raised in Chesterfield, England. He graduated from the University of Surrey with a B.Sc. in Chemistry with French in 1981 before joining the group of Sir Derek Barton at the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles (ICSN) in Gif sur Yvette, France. Under Barton, he learned the rudiments of free radical chemistry and was responsible for the development of the Barton decarboxylation reaction, for which he was awarded the degree of Docteur ès Sciences by the Université de Paris XI (Orsay) in 1984.
After a further year at the ICSN as postdoc with Barton and Potier he took up a “new blood” lectureship in chemistry in the Christopher Ingold Laboratories of University College London. After five years at UCL working in the areas of diastereoselective free radical chemistry, acyl radical chemistry, enantioselective synthesis of α-disubstituted amino acids, and carbohydrate chemistry, Crich moved to UIC where he stayed seventeen years, rising to the rank of Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Organic Chemistry. Work at UIC focused on the development of new stereo controlled methods for glycosidic bond formation and their application in oligosaccharide synthesis, the chemistry of free radicals and of alkene radical cations, and the development of environmentally benign reagents for organic synthesis. In 2007 Crich relocated to Wayne State University in Detroit as the Schaap Professor of Chemisty, before taking up the position of Directeur of the ICSN in Gif-sur-Yvette in 2009. Crich returned to Wayne State as the Schaap Professor in 2011 and leads a group working in the areas of glycochemistry, organic reactivity and antibiotic chemistry.
The underlying theme of much of Crich’s work is the symbiosis of mechanism and methodology/synthesis with careful physical organic studies underpinning much of the synthetic work to appear from his laboratory. His more than 355 published papers cover areas as diverse as the total synthesis of alkaloids, the development of new glycosylation methods, catalysis of radical reactions, improved methods for peptide synthesis, and the development of improved antibiotics for the treatment of MDR infectious diseases. His work has been recognized by the award of the first Franco-British prize of the Academie des Sciences in 1989, the Corday Morgan medal in 1990, the RSC Tate and Lyle Carbohydrate Chemistry prize in 1994, the Fellowship of the A. P. Sloan Foundation in 1994, the Wolfram Award of the American Chemical Society Carbohydrate Division in 2008, the American Chemical Society A. C. Cope Scholar and European Carbohydrate Society Emil Fischer Awards in 2011, the RSC Haworth medal in 2014, and International Carbohydrate Organization, Whistler Award, 2018.