In 1957, he enters Kyoto University, initially intending to study polymer chemistry. After three years, he decides to focus on organic chemistry, gaining his BSc in 1961 and MSc in 1963.
Ryoji Noyori shares the 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with William S. Knowles and K. Barry Sharpless “for their work on chirally catalyzed hydrogenation reactions”. Chiral molecules occur in two mirror-image forms, but while one of these is a perfect match for the body, its “twin” can be harmful, as was the case with thalidomide – a sedative intended to help pregnant women with morning sickness, which caused deformation of the babies. So it is vital to be able to produce both forms separately.
He marries the pharmaceutical student Hiroko Oshima in 1972. They have two children.
In 1968, being only 29 years old, he is invited by Nagoya University to chair a new organic chemistry laboratory. After a year abroad, he returns to Nagoya in 1970 and is promoted to professor in 1972. He focuses on the synthesis of organic molecules using organometallic chemistry, and discovers new methods to synthesize complex molecules like amino acids.
Ryoji Noyori is born in Kobe, Japan, the eldest of four children.
He first attends an elementary school affiliated with Kobe University, then Nada Middle and High School. His father, a chemical researcher, takes him to a conference in 1951 on the new miracle fibre, “nylon”. The then 12-year old is impressed by the power of chemistry and vows to become a chemist to invent beneficial products for society.
In 1969, as planned earlier, he goes to Harvard for a year to study under Elias J. Corey. There he first meets K. Barry Sharpless.
He is immediately appointed instructor in 1963 and receives his doctorate in 1967.