John Cornforth (7 September 1917 – 8 December 2013) was an Australian–British chemist. In 1975, John Cornforth was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Life and Career

John Cornforth was born on 7 September 1917, in Sydney, Australia. He began his formal education in Sydney and showed an early interest in science.

After completing his primary and secondary education, Cornforth enrolled at the University of Sydney. He pursued a degree in chemistry and excelled in his studies. In 1937, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Sydney. This marked the completion of his undergraduate education.

Cornforth’s academic journey continued at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. He pursued a Ph.D. in chemistry, which he completed in 1941. His doctoral research set the stage for his future groundbreaking work in the field of organic chemistry.

After completing his Ph.D. at the University of Oxford in 1941, John Cornforth began his research career. He initially focused on the chemistry of natural products, with a particular interest in steroids. This early work laid the foundation for his future contributions to the field.

During and after World War II, Cornforth collaborated with another chemist, George Popjak. Together, they made significant advancements in understanding the structure and synthesis of steroids, which are important compounds in biology and medicine.

One of Cornforth’s most notable contributions was his pioneering work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions. He investigated how enzymes influence the three-dimensional arrangement of molecules during chemical reactions in living organisms. This research had profound implications for the understanding of enzymatic mechanisms.

He also joined the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, where he continued his research and played a role in shaping the next generation of chemists through teaching and mentoring.

John Cornforth passed away on 8 December 2013, in Sussex, United Kingdom.

Award and Legacy

In 1975, John Cornforth was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, jointly with Vladimir Prelog. He received this prestigious honor for his groundbreaking research on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions. This recognition cemented his status as a leading figure in the field of organic chemistry.

He received the Copley Medal, the highest award of the Royal Society, in the same year as his Nobel Prize. This medal is given in recognition of outstanding achievements in scientific research.

In 1977, Cornforth was honored with the Royal Medal, another prestigious award bestowed by the Royal Society for his exceptional contributions to chemistry.
John Cornforth’s legacy in the field of organic chemistry is profound. His work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions helped lay the foundation for our understanding of how enzymes function in living organisms. His contributions continue to influence the fields of biochemistry and organic chemistry.

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