Meet The Lebanese-American Considered “The Best Living Chemist”

It is always fascinating to witness how migration can change your family’s mindset and culture, and even how its last name evolves over the years.

Just ask the Corey family in the United States, the majority of which trace their roots back to the Lebanese “Khoury” family.

Elias James Corey, a world-renown Chemist, and winner of the most prestigious prize in Chemistry, the Nobel Prize, is yet another Lebanese success story we are proud of!

A worldwide renowned American organic chemist, Elias James Corey was born in 1928 to Lebanese immigrants in Methuen, Massachusetts.

His mother is said to have changed his name to “Elias” to honor his father who passed away merely eighteen months after Corey’s birth.

At just 16, Corey entered the prestigious MIT, where he earned both a B.A. in 1948 and a Ph.D. in 1951. Originally pursuing a degree in Engineering, he began reconsidering his long-term career plans after attending just one Chemistry class.

He went on to graduate with a Ph.D. with honors from MIT before being offered an appointment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he became a Professor of Chemistry at the mere age of 27 years old; the youngest appointed Full Professor at the time.

In 1959, Corey moved to Harvard University, where he currently serves as an Emeritus Professor of Organic Chemistry through the Corey Group Research Program.

He attributes his fascination with Organic Chemistry to “its intrinsic beauty and its great relevance to human health.”

Two of Corey’s most notable awards are the National Medal of Science he received in 1988, as well as the Nobel Prize in Chemistry he was awarded in 1990 “for his development of the theory and methodology of organic synthesis.”

He is regarded by scholars and practitioners in the field as one of the greatest living chemists.

He has developed numerous synthetic reagents and methodologies and has advanced the science of organic synthesis considerably throughout his years in the field. 

The recognition of this outstanding chemist continues through a prestigious award established in his name by The American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C. in 2002.

The Elias J. Corey Award for Outstanding Original Contribution in Organic Synthesis by a Young Investigator is Supported by the Pfizer Endowment Fund in continuation of Elias Corey’s legacy.

It is bestowed yearly, since 2003, to an individual with less than 15 years of experience who has demonstrated creativity in the field of synthetic organic chemistry.

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