Sharpless, Karl Barry

Sharpless, 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). He has been on the faculty of The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif., since 1990. Sharpless received the 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with William KnowlesKnowles, 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).
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 and 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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 for his work on chirally catalyzed oxidation reactions. Chiral catalysts push chemical reactions toward just one of two possible forms of chiral, or mirror-image, molecules (see Stereoisomers under isomerisomer
, 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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). Their work had important implications for the production of pharmaceuticals, as undesirable side effects can result from the "wrong" chiral form of a drug. This occurred in the 1960s with the antinausea drug thalidomidethalidomide
, sleep-inducing drug found to produce skeletal defects in developing fetuses. The drug was marketed in Europe, especially in West Germany and Britain, from 1957 to 1961, and was thought to be so safe that it was sold without prescription.
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, which caused birth defects when it was given to some pregnant women.
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