Ryoji Noyori, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2001

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Ryoji Noyori

Japanese: 野依 良治
Birthplace: Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
Immediate Family:

Son of <private> Noyori and <private> Noyori
Husband of <private> Noyori (Oshima)
Father of <private> Noyori and <private> Noyori

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About Ryoji Noyori, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2001

Ryōji Noyori, 野依 良治, (born September 3, 1938) is a Japanese chemist. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2001. Noyori shared half of the prize with William S. Knowles for the study of chirally catalyzed hydrogenations; the second half of the Prize went to K. Barry Sharpless for his study in chirally catalyzed oxidation reactions (Sharpless epoxidation).


Ryōji Noyori was born in Kobe, Japan. He became fascinated with chemistry at age twelve, after hearing a presentation on nylon. He saw the power of chemistry as being the ability to "produce high value from almost nothing". He was a student at Kyoto University, an instructor in the research group of Hitoshi Nozaki, and an associate professor at Nagoya University. After postdoctoral work with Elias J. Corey at Harvard he returned to Nagoya, becoming a full professor in 1972. He is still based at Nagoya, though he is also now president of RIKEN, a multi-site national research initiative with an annual budget of $800 million. In 2000 Noyori became Honorary Doctor at the University of Rennes 1 where he taught in 1995, and in 2005, he became Honorary Doctor at Technical University of Munich and RWTH Aachen University, Germany.


Noyori believes strongly in the power of catalysis and of green chemistry; in a recent article he argues for the pursuit of "practical elegance in synthesis". In this article he states that "our ability to devise straightforward and practical chemical syntheses is indispensable to the survival of our species." Elsewhere he has said that "Research is for nations and mankind, not for researchers themselves." He encourages scientists to be politically active- "Researchers must spur public opinions and government policies toward constructing the sustainable society in the 21st century."

Noyori is currently a chairman of the Education Rebuilding Council, which was set up by Japan's PM Shinzō Abe after he came to power in 2006.

Noyori is most famous for asymmetric hydrogenation using as catalysts complexes of rhodium and ruthenium, particularly those based on the BINAP ligand. (See Noyori asymmetric hydrogenation) Asymmetric hydrogenation of an alkene in the presence of ((S)-BINAP)Ru(OAc)2 is used for the commercial production of enantiomerically pure (97% ee) naproxen, used as an anti-inflammatory drug. The anti-bacterial agent levofloxacin is manufactured by asymmetric hydrogenation of ketones in the presence of a Ru(II) BINAP halide complex.

He has also worked on other asymmetric processes. Each year 3000 tonnes (after new expansion) of menthol are produced (in 94% ee) by Takasago International Co., using Noyori's method for isomerisation of allylic amines.

More recently he and Jessop have developed an industrial process for the manufacture of N,N-dimethylformamide from hydrogen, dimethylamine and supercritical carbon dioxide in the presence of RuCl2(PMe3)4 as catalyst.

Awards & Honors:

  • CSJ Award for Young Chemists 1972
  • Matsunaga Prize 1978
  • Chunichi Cultural Prize 1982
  • Chemical Society of Japan Award 1985
  • Toray Science & Technology Prize 1990
  • ACS John Gamble Kirkwood Medal 1991
  • Tetrahedron Prize for Creativity in Organic Chemistry 1993 (with K. Barry Sharpless)
  • Keimei Life Science Prize 1994
  • Japan Academy Prize 1995
  • ACS Arthur C. Cope Award 1997
  • SCI Chirality Medal 1997
  • Person of Cultural Merit 1998
  • King Faisal International Prize in Science 1999
  • Japanese Order of Culture 2000
  • Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2001 (with William S. Knowles and K. Barry Sharpless)
  • ACS Roger Adams Medal 2001
  • Wolf Prize in Chemistry 2001 (with Henri B. Kagan and K. Barry Sharpless)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science Foreign Member, 1996
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences Foreign Member, 2001
  • Chemical Society of Japan President (2001-02)
  • European Academy of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities 2001
  • Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
  • Pontifical Academy of Sciences
  • Royal Society of Chemistry Foreign Member, 2000
  • Society of Synthetic Organic Chemistry, Japan President (1997-99)

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Ryoji Noyori, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2001's Timeline

September 3, 1938
Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan