Nobel Prizes in organic chemistry 1901-2010

Organic Chemistry

Since their launch in 1901, the Nobel Prizes have rewarded more achievements in the study of carbon-based substances, otherwise known as organic chemistry, than in any other traditional chemistry discipline. Each Nobel Prize in organic chemistry is listed below, grouped loosely according to their fields. Click on each link to see a Speed read, our brief summaries of the breakthroughs for which each Nobel Prize was awarded.

Chemistry of Natural Products

Chemistry of natural products

One of the core tasks of organic chemistry is to decipher the chemical structures of substances produced by living organisms in order to understand their roles in vital biological processes.

Bringing Chemistry to Biology 
Emil Fischer (1902)

The Birth of Dyeing 
Adolf von Baeyer (1905)

Essential Chemical Plants 
Otto Wallach (1910)

Revealing Plant’s Colour Complexity  
Richard Willstätter (1915)

Connecting Vital Functions 
Otto Windaus (1928)

Establishing Plant’s Blood Relatives  
Hans Fischer (1930)

The ABC of Vitamins 
Walter Haworth and Paul Karrer (1937)

From Bonds to Vitamins
Richard Kuhn (1938)

Exploring the Sexual Divide 
Adolf Butenandt and Leopold Ruzicka (1939)

Methodologies in Organic Chemistry

Methodologies in organic chemistry

Stitching together molecules to create increasingly complex organic compounds relies on a host of chemical reactions and techniques, which can bring together the correct atoms and molecules and connect them in the correct manner.

Creating Carbon Connections 
Victor Grignard and Paul Sabatier (1912)

Nature’s Assembly Instructions 
Robert Robinson (1947)

Closing the Circle 
Otto Diels and Kurt Alder (1950)

Rebuilding Chemical Complexity
Robert Woodward (1965)

Chemical Construction Tools 
Herbert Brown and Georg Wittig (1979)

Supporting Protein Chains 
Bruce Merrifield (1984)

Back to the Future
Elias James Corey (1990)

A Helping Hand 
William Knowles, Ryoji Noyori and Barry Sharpless (2001)

Chemical Exchange Scheme
Yves Chauvin, Robert Grubbs and Richard Schrock (2005)

Tools for the Molecular Architect
Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi, Akira Suzuki (2010)

Polymer Chemistry

Polymer chemistry

From natural rubber to artificial plastics, understanding how their unusually long molecules are created has allowed these chemicals to be produced on a massive scale.

Connecting on a Grand Scale 
Hermann Staudinger (1953)

Converting Catalysts 
Karl Ziegler and Giulio Natta (1963)

General Organic Chemistry

General organic chemistry

The Nobel Prizes in Chemistry have also recognized breakthroughs that have helped us to understand how the shape of molecules relates to their function, and that have recreated the way in which molecules use shape to recognise and interact with each other in living systems.

Chemicals in 3D Vision 
Derek Barton and Odd Hassel (1969)

Getting Chemistry into Shape 
Donald Cram, Jean-Marie Lehn and Charles Pedersen (1987)

Connecting Form with Function 
John Cornforth and Vladimir Prelog (1975)

The Speed reads on Nobel Prizes in Organic Chemistry are supported by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Special Grant Program in the Chemical Sciences.

First published 2 April 2009

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