Nobel Prize 2001
William S. Knowles, Ryoji Noyori, and K. Barry Sharpless
William S. Knowles
Born: 1 June 1917 in Taunton, MA, USA
Died: 13 June 2012 in Chesterfield, MO, USA
Attended Harvard, earned his PhD in 1942 at Columbia University
- Field: Industrial chemistry, organic chemistry
- Was retired at the time of the award
Interesting Fact: He looks like an older Lincoln Chafee.
Born: 3 September 1938 in Kobe, Japan
Earned his PhD in 1967 at Kyoto University
Field: Industrial chemistry, organic chemistry
Was Director of the Research Center for Materials Science at Nagoya University in Japan when awarded
- Interesting Fact: His motivation to get into chemistry was to help post war Japan.
K. Barry Sharpless
K. Barry Sharpless
Born: 28 April 1941, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Field: industrial chemistry, organic chemistry
Was a professor at the Scripps Research Institute in California at the time of the award
Interesting Fact: Many scientists have said that Sharpless' discovery is the most important in the molecule creation field in the last few decades.
- Knowles built upon the work of previous researchers, and created a process that produced 15% more of the desired molecule form.
- This was done by using a transition metal with chiral properties (see visual) to give nonchiral molecule building material, chiral properties after reaction.
- Noyori built upon Knowles' work, creating new catalysts (substances that increase the speed of a chemical reaction) such as BINAP by optimizing Knowles' creation as well as experimenting with new transition metals.
- Some of his catalysts were able to produce 100% more of the desired molecule form.
- Sharpless created chiral catalysts for a different type of reaction using transition metals such as titanium, allowing scientists to build more complex molecules that could do more.
For example, your left hand can't fit into a right hand glove and vise versa. In medicine, the other version of the molecule could cause unintended side effects, which is why the work of these men was so important.
- These men were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2001 for their work on chirally catalyzed reactions.
- Mirror reactions can produce two molecules made up of the same atoms but one of the two molecules can be harmful in some way or another
- These three men discovered new catalyst driven reactions that created more of the desired molecule to be created.
- This discovery advanced the medical field by allowing the creation of lots of any desired molecule.
- Such processes were used to produce large amounts of antibiotics and other pharmaceutical products.
- This did not challenge any previous discoveries but instead helped to build the knowledge of synthesization reactions.