Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from A-E

Corey, Elias J

organic structure natural products

(1928– ) US organic chemist: devisor of retrosynthetic analysis, and synthesizer of natural products and new therapeutic agents.

All of Corey’s grandparents had emigrated from the Lebanon to the USA, under pressure as Christians to leave the Ottoman Empire of that time. As a child he lived in a household with his early-widowed mother, and three siblings, and his mother’s childless sister and her husband. Rather happily carefree and sports-oriented, Corey credits his aunt with ensuring that all four children could concentrate on work as well as leisure; and he entered MIT aged 16 to study chemistry, physics and maths in 1945. He quickly found most pleasure in organic chemistry, and after graduation he worked with J C Sheehan on synthetic variants of penicillin. Thereafter his work was mainly in the area of structure and synthesis of organic compounds, at first at MIT and from 1959 as a professor at Harvard.

Organic chemists had been much concerned for a century with devising syntheses of molecules, with some emphasis on those occurring as natural products. These, and especially those showing important physiological properties, were often difficult to obtain pure and in reasonable quantity; and experience had shown that variants on them could possess useful new properties, as in the case of penicillin.

Corey devised a new and systematic way of planning syntheses, replacing the near-artistic creative route by what he called retrosynthetic analysis. He defined rules whereby the target molecule, of known structure, was notionally broken down into smaller parts, and these in turn into smaller molecular fragments, until units were reached which are readily available, preferably commercially. The fragmentation stages were selected to be reversible by practical means. Corey showed that these planning steps are amenable to computer programming. As a result, since the 1970s many valuable new compounds have been made. Corey himself made over 100 important natural products, usually having a complex structure: for example the plant hormone gibberelic acid (in 1978), the several types of prostaglandin, and ginkgolid from the ginkgo tree, long used in China to treat asthma.

Corey won an unshared Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1990.

Corey: For the People [next] [back] Core Principles of Educational Multimedia - INTRODUCTION, THE EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION OF MULTIMEDIA IN EDUCATIONAL CONTEXTS, Instructional Design Principles, Professional Development Issues

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or