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.[1][2] Regarded by many as one of the greatest living chemists, he has developed numerous synthetic reagents, methodologies, and has advanced the science of organic synthesis considerably.


He was born to Lebanese immigrants in Methuen, Massachusetts, 50 km (30 miles) north of Boston. His mother changed his name to "Elias" to honor his father who died eighteen months after the birth of his son. His widowed mother, brother, two sisters and an aunt and uncle all lived together in a spacious house—struggling through the depression. He attended Catholic elementary school and Lawrence Public High School. And went on to MIT and got a PHD. Later he traveled out of [1]

At MIT, he earned both a bachelor's degree in 1948 and a Ph.D. in 1951. Both degrees were in chemistry. Immediately thereafter, he joined the faculty of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1959, he moved to Harvard University, where he is currently an emeritus professor of organic chemistry. He was awarded the American Chemical Society's greatest honor, the Priestley Medal, in 2004. He was 28 when he became a professor. Today he is married to Claire Corey. They had three children, David, John, and Susan and two granddaughters, Sara and Kate Corey.
Major contributions

He has developed several new synthetic reagents:

* PCC (pyridinium chlorochromate), and PDC (pyridinium dichromate): widely used for the oxidation of alcohols to aldehydes.[3]
* t-Butyldimethylsilyl ether (TBDMS),[4] Triisopropylsilyl ether (TIPS), and Methoxyethoxymethyl (MEM): popular alcohol protecting groups.
* Boron-based heterocycles for the asymmetric catalysis of the Diels-Alder reaction [5] and reduction of ketones [6]

In addition, Corey commenced detailed studies on cationic polyolefin cyclizations utilized in enzymatic production of cholesterol from simpler plant terpenes.[7]

Several reactions developed in the Corey's lab have become commonplace in modern synthetic organic chemistry. Several reactions have been named after him:

* Corey-Bakshi-Shibata reduction (CBS reduction): Asymmetric ketone reduction.
* Corey-Fuchs reaction
* Corey–Kim oxidation
* Corey-Winter olefin synthesis
* Corey-House-Posner-Whitesides reaction
* Johnson-Corey-Chaykovsky reaction

Total syntheses

E. J. Corey and his research group have completed many total syntheses. His 1969 total syntheses of several prostaglandins are considered classics.[8][9]
The Corey lactone

a) Corey, E. J.; Schaaf, T. K.; Huber,W.; Koelliker,V.;Weinshenker, N. M.; J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 1970, 92, 397. b) For a review see Axen, U.; Pike, J. E.; and Schneider, W. P.; in The Total Synthesis of Natural Products, Vol. 1, ApSimon, J. W., ed. Wiley, New York, 1973, 81.

Other notable syntheses:

* Longifolene[10][11]
* Ginkgolide A[12] and B[13][14]
* Lactacystin[15]
* Miroestrol[16]
* Ecteinascidin 743[17]
* Salinosporamide A[18]


* Elias James Corey, Xue-Min Cheng. The logic of chemical synthesis. Wiley-Interscience, 1995, ISBN 0-471-11594-0.
* E. J. Corey, Barbara Czako, Laszlo Kurti. Molecules and Medicine John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
* Name reactions in heterocyclic chemistry / edited by Jie-Jack Li ; scientific editor, E.J. Corey. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley-Interscience, c2005.
* Name reactions for functional group transformations / edited by Jie Jack Li, E.J. Corey. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley-Interscience, c2007.

Woodward-Hoffmann rules

Recently when awarded the Priestley Medal, E. J. Corey has controversially claimed to have inspired Robert Burns Woodward prior to the development of the Woodward-Hoffmann rules. This was rebutted by Roald Hoffmann in the journal Angewandte Chemie.[19]

1. ^ E. J. Corey, X-M. Cheng, The Logic of Chemical Synthesis, Wiley, New York, 1995, ISBN 0-471-11594-0.
2. ^ "The Logic of Chemical Synthesis: Multistep Synthesis of Complex Carbogenic Molecules (Nobel Lecture)" E.J. Corey, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 1991, 30, 455. (doi:10.1002/anie.199104553)
3. ^ Corey, E.J., and Suggs, W. 'Pyridinium Chlorochromate. An Efficient Reagent for Oxidation of Primary and Secondary Alcohols to Carbonyl Compounds', Tetrahedron Lett. 1975, 31, 2647-2650.
4. ^ Corey, E. J.; Venkateswarlu, A. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1972, 94, 6190-6191. (doi:10.1021/ja00772a043)
5. ^ Corey, E.J.; Loh, T-P.; Roper, T.D.; Azimioara, M.D.; Noe, M.C. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1992, 114, 8290.
6. ^ E. J. Corey, C. J. Helal, Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. Engl., 1998, 37, 1987
7. ^ Wendt, K.U.; Schulz, G.E.; Liu, D.R.; Corey, E.J. Angewandte Chemie International Edition in English, 2000, 39, 2812-2833.
8. ^ E. J. Corey, N. M. Weinshenker, T. K. Schaaf, W. Huber, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1969, 91, 5675-5677. (doi:10.1021/ja01048a062)
9. ^ K. C. Nicolaou, E. J. Sorensen, Classics in Total Synthesis, VCH, New York, 1996, ISBN 3-527-29231-4.
10. ^ Corey, E. J.; Ohno, M.; Vatakencherry, P. A.; Mitra, R. B. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1961, 83, 1251-1253. (doi:10.1021/ja01466a056)
11. ^ "Total Synthesis of Longifolene" Corey, E. J.; Ohno, M.; Mitra, R. B.; Vatakencherry, P. A. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1964, 86, 478-485. (doi:10.1021/ja01057a039)
12. ^ Corey, E. J.; Ghosh, A. K. Tetrahedron Lett. 1988, 29, 3205-3206.
13. ^ Corey, E. J.; Kang, M.; Desai, M. C.; Ghosh, A. K.; Houpis, I. N. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1988, 110, 649-651.
14. ^ Corey, E. J. Chem. Soc. Rev. 1988, 17, 111-133.
15. ^ "Total Synthesis of Lactacystin" Corey, E. J.; Reichard, G. A. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1992, 114, 10677.
16. ^ "Enantioselective Total Synthesis of Miroestrol" Corey, E. J.; Wu, L. I. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1993, 115, 9327.
17. ^ Corey, E. J.; Gin, D. Y.; Kania, R. S. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1996, 118, 9202-9203.
18. ^ Rajender Reddy Leleti.; Corey, E. J. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2004, 120, 6230-6232. ({{DOI: 10.1021/ja048613p S0002-7863(04)08613-5}})
19. ^ R. Hoffmann Angew. Chem. 2004, 43, 6586-6590. (doi:10.1002/anie.200461440)

External links

* Compiled Works of E.J. Corey
* Elias James Corey
* Elias James Corey Nobel Lecture (PDF)
* A digital photograph purporting to be the "traffic light" regulating Corey's potential office visitors

List of chemists

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