Corey, Elias James

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Elias James Corey, 1928–, American organic chemist and educator, b. Methuen, Mass., grad. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (B.S. 1948, Ph.D. 1951). He has taught at the Univ. of Illinois (1951–59) and at Harvard, where he is the Sheldon Emery Professor of Chemistry. Using theoretical principles, he has done pioneering work in stereochemistry and synthetic chemistry, particularly with prostaglandins, macrolide antibiotics, and insect hormones. He formalized the concept of "retrosynthesis" in which intermediates between a complex target molecule and simple commercial chemicals are identified; he then synthesized the molecules (e.g., prostaglandin) via the intermediates. He has also developed numerous synthetic reactions and transformations, and was one of the first to use computer analysis to design syntheses. In 1990, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.