William S. Knowles
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2001
Born: 1 June 1917, Taunton, MA, USA
Died: 13 June 2012, Chesterfield, MO, USA
Prize motivation: “for their work on chirally catalysed hydrogenation reactions”
Prize share: 1/4
Many molecules appear in two different reversed forms that have different chemical and biological effects. Through special catalysts—substances that facilitate chemical reactions without being consumed in them—it is possible to bring about a process in which only one of the reversed forms is produced. In 1968 William Knowles discovered that certain metals had this effect during hydrogenation—reactions in which hydrogen gas is added to a chemical compound. Among other things, this enabled production of L-dopa medication to treat Parkinson’s disease.
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