Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Elias James Corey
Elias James Corey (born July 12, 1928) is an American organic chemist. In 1990 he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his development of the theory and methodology of organic synthesis", specifically retrosynthetic analysis. He has developed several new synthetic reagents, most notably PCC (pyridinium chlorochromate), widely used for the oxidation of alcohols to aldehydes. His method for asymmetric reduction of ketones to chiral secondary alcohols using oxazaborolidine/borane has become popular. His 1969 total synthesis of several prostaglandins is considered a classic,.
His son, David R. Corey , is a biochemist, which reportedly caused some family tension.
Graduate student deaths
The second of the graduate students, Jason Altom, was a Ph.D. student at Harvard University who committed suicide by taking potassium cyanide in 1998, citing in his suicide note "abusive research supervisors" as one reason for taking his life.
Altom's suicide highlighted the plight of many PhD students in similar situations. His case prompted many universities to insist that Ph.D. students have an advisory committee in addition to a supervisor, to whom they might turn for support: James Anderson , who became Harvard Chemistry Department Chairman, stated that "Jason's death prompted an examination of the role the department should play in graduate students' lives". Anderson went on to promise that students will also have "confidential and seamless access" to psychological counselling services, paid for by the department.
Corey, speaking of the suicide note, states: "[T]hat letter doesn't make sense. At the end, Jason must have been delusional or irrational in the extreme." Corey also is on record as stating that he never questioned Mr. Altom's intellectual contributions. "I did my best to guide Jason as a mountain guide would to guide someone climbing a mountain. I did my best every step of the way," Corey states. "My conscience is clear. Everything Jason did came out of our partnership. We never had the slightest disagreement."
Corey's office at Harvard University is infamous for the stoplight on the outside of the door: green means come in, and red means that even if the world is ending in a nuclear holocaust and Dr. Corey's only chance for survival is for you to burst in and drag him to a bomb shelter, you may still not enter.
Recently when awarded the Priestley Medal, E. J. Corey has controversially claimed to have inspired Robert B. Woodward prior to the development of the Woodward-Hoffmann rules. This was vociferously rebutted by Roald Hoffmann in the journal Angewandte Chemie .
- E. J. Corey, X-M. Cheng, The Logic of Chemical Synthesis, Wiley, New York, 1995, ISBN 0471115940.
- K. C. Nicolaou, E. J. Sorensen, Classics in Total Synthesis, VCH, New York, 1996, ISBN 3527292314.
- E. J. Corey, N. M. Weinshenker, T. K. Schaaf, W. Huber, Journal of the American Chemical Society 1969, 91, 5675.
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