Knowles, William Standish

Knowles, William Standish,

1917–2012, American chemist, b. Taunton, Mass., Ph.D. Columbia, 1942. He was a research chemist at the Monsanto Company for his entire career (1942–86). Knowles was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Ryoji NoyoriNoyori, Ryoji,
1938–, Japanese chemist, D.Eng. Kyoto Univ., 1967. Noyori was an instructor at Kyoto Univ. from 1963 to 1968. He then joined the faculty at Nagoya Univ., where he is a professor and director of the Research Center for Materials Science.
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 and Barry SharplessSharpless, Karl Barry,
1941–, American chemist, b. Philadelphia, Ph.D. Stanford, 1968. Sharpless was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1970–77 and 1980–90) and at Stanford (1977–80).
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 for the development of catalytic asymmetric synthesis, with the work of Knowles and Noyori focusing on hydrogenationhydrogenation
, chemical reaction of a substance with molecular hydrogen, usually in the presence of a catalyst. A common hydrogenation is the hardening of animal fats or vegetable oils to make them solid at room temperature and improve their stability.
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 and that of Sharpless on oxidation (see oxidation and reductionoxidation and reduction,
complementary chemical reactions characterized by the loss or gain, respectively, of one or more electrons by an atom or molecule. Originally the term oxidation
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). Most molecules in nature exist in chiral forms (optical isomersisomer
, in chemistry, one of two or more compounds having the same molecular formula but different structures (arrangements of atoms in the molecule). Isomerism is the occurrence of such compounds. Isomerism was first recognized by J. J. Berzelius in 1827.
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) whose structures mirror each other, with one form often biologically active and the other inactive. Catalytic asymmetric synthesis, an enzymelike process that can quickly produce an excess of one of these chiral forms, has led to improved methods of producing drugs that have only one useful chiral form, such as l-dopal-dopa
, drug used to alleviate some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, particularly trembling, rigidity, and slow movements; the drug is also called levodopa. Parkinson's disease results when the concentration of dopamine in the brain is depleted (see catecholamine).
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, and also has applications in the production of industrial biomaterials.
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