Professor Elias Corey ForMemRS
Elias James Corey is a Nobel Prize-winning organic chemist who has developed a multitude of synthetic reagents — substances added to a chemical mix to create a reaction — and methods to synthesise organic compounds. His work has achieved an impressive reach in terms of impact and has significantly advanced the field of organic chemistry.
Elias developed retrosynthetic analysis, a strategy that applies a combination of intelligent selection and experimental ‘trial and error’ to organic synthesis, breaking down molecules into simpler structures based on known reactions and examining each of these components. This approach is now the norm for chemical synthesis and is outlined in Elias’s book, The Logic of Chemical Synthesis (1989).
Corey has synthesised around 100 biologically active and complicated natural products, including treatments for asthma and infertility, as well as the active substance from the gingko tree. He was awarded the 1990 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his theoretical and methodological advances in synthetic chemistry and has had several chemical reactions named after him.