Raymond U. Lemieux
Wolf Prize Laureate in Chemistry 1999
The Prize Committee for Chemistry has unanimously decided that the Prize for 1999 be awarded to:
Raymond U. Lemieux
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
“for his fundamental and seminal contributions to the study and synthesis of oligosaccharides and to the elucidation of their role in molecular recognition in biological systems.”
Professor Raymond U. Lemieux’s seminal contributions to the chemistry of carbohydrates, stretching over close to half a century, have led to a transformation of the discipline; this study is now universally recognized as being of immense importance in chemistry and biology. Lemieux has had an exceptional ability to focus quickly and clearly on the basic questions, in an area whose critical biological significance he addressed before others, and to produce original conceptual frameworks and experimental tools to deal with them. This ability and his many achievements have provided the pillars upon which present-day oligosaccharide chemistry and biochemistry now rest.
Inter alia, Lemieux pioneered many methodologies and concepts, which have become ‘tools of the trade’ in areas far beyond those of his original innovations. These include:
* The introduction of NMR as a tool for the determination of anomeric stereochemistry of oligosaccharides; his experimental work was the basis for the famous Karplus correlations.
* His discovery and formulation of the endo- and exo-anomeric effects and their importance in influencing the relative stabilities and reactivities of anomeric structures. Although the anomeric effect was originally identified in pyranoid rings, its relevance to conformational analysis of geminally hetero-atom substituted carbon chains was immediately obvious.
* His development of synthetic methods for assembly of ligosaccharides under stereochemical control at the anomeric carbon, which laid the foundation for the work of many others who followed his innovations.
* His landmark synthetic work on human blood group antigenic determinants, which became possible as a result of his work on stereochemical control, and its subsequent medical applications.
* His immensely important work in establishing the central role of carbohydrate structures in molecular recognition in biological systems and the essential role of (solvent) water in the energetics of oligosaccharide-protein interactions.