E J Corey reflects on winning the Nobel Prize

EJ Corey

EJ Corey

Source: © Rick Friedman / Corbis

On receiving the award of the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1990 ‘for his development of the theory and methodology of organic synthesis’, Elias J. Corey told Chemistry in Britain ‘For many years various friends, colleagues and students have expressed opinions and predictions that the Nobel prize would come my way. My response was usually a casual “don’t hold your breath”. There are so many outstanding scientists in chemistry and related fields whose work deserves recognition that the odds are quite long for any individual. It has always been my view that one should try to do one’s very best in teaching and research, and accept any honours which are bestowed as good fortune. But should one’s research go unrecognised, one could always take pleasure in the accomplishments themselves and in the joy of discovery. To do research because it is interesting and useful to one’s fellow scientists and to society as a whole is vastly wiser than choosing a line of research simply because it is more likely to be rewarded.’

Chemistry in Britain (December 1990)

Ed. Corey received the latest RSC’s Sir Derek Barton Gold Medal in 2014 ‘for his highly creative research over the last 25 years on catalytic enantioselective reactions including the use of oxazaborolidines, his work on cascade cationic polyene cyclisation reactions and his inspirational total syntheses of bioactive natural products’.