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Campus News

Elias J. Corey Receives Honorary Doctorate

by Michael Parker (May 6, 2005)

Elias J. Corey

Elias J. Corey

Elias J. Corey, the 1990 recipient of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree from the University at Albany during an honorary degree convocation April 25 in the Life Sciences Research Building. President Kermit L. Hall hosted the event.

Corey, Sheldon Emory Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University, has been widely recognized for his distinguished career as a scientist, teacher, and industry consultant. In addition to the Nobel Prize, Corey was also awarded the Priestly Medal in 2004, the highest award given by the American Chemical Society for extraordinary intellectual achievements, outstanding professional and public service, and a high standard of excellence. In 1988, Corey was honored with the National Medal of Science from President Ronald Reagan.

Corey's work has included theoretical organic chemistry, development of new synthetic methods, and synthesis of biologically important natural products. He was awarded the Nobel Prize "for his development of the theory and methodology of organic synthesis." While still a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Corey began developing the theories for which he would be recognized. His 1989 book The Logic of Chemical Synthesis, co-written with Xue-Min Cheng, laid out the principles of strategic disconnections, an approach Corey has been teaching to graduate students since the 1960s.

Two of Corey's former students also went on to earn the Nobel Prize: Bengt Samuelson in 1982 for physiology and medicine, and Ryoji Noyori in 2001 for chemistry.

"Corey had the amazing ability to run a group of 40 scientists at one time, each having important, original projects to work on, and each having unrestricted daily access to him," said Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Eric Block, who received his Ph.D. at Harvard with Corey in 1967. "His scientific ideas are so good, and his publications so prolific and notable, that he was recently acknowledged as the single most highly cited current author in the field of chemistry. Those lucky enough to work for Corey found that his personal interest in his now more than 700 former students continued even after they left Harvard. I can personally recall instances of this generosity of time and thoughtfulness over the years."