Elias J. Corey
Wolf Prize Laureate in Chemistry 1986
Elias J. Corey
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Harvard University Cambridge, USA
“for outstanding research on the synthesis of many highly complex natural products and the demonstration of novel ways of thinking about such syntheses.”
Elias James Corey was the first to synthesize the major-representatives of the two classes of natural products, the prostaglandins and the leukotrienes. The basic strategies, which he set are still those followed in current research programs. The great advances made on the biology of these important substances would not have been possible without his work. His continued efforts in the leukotriene field have revolutionized our knowledge of the molecular basis of inflammation, immunology, and other areas of medicine.
There is scarcely a laboratory involved in complex organic synthesis, which does not use one of Corey’s reagents, diimides, sulfonium ylides, and organometallics on a daily basis. The present wide use in organic synthesis of the many organometallic reagents first introduced by him is indicative of his remarkable vision in the field of synthesis.
Very important has been Corey’s influence in teaching organic chemists to think in novel ways about synthesis. An example of his innovative approaches is his introduction of the concept of retrosynthesis which lent itself well to translation into computer language. His pioneering work has laid the foundation for computer assisted synthesis.