Karl Barry Sharpless
|Alma mater||Dartmouth College|
|Known for||enantioselective synthesis, click chemistry|
|Institutions||Massachusetts Institute of Technology|
The Scripps Research Institute
|Thesis||Studies of the mechanism of action of 2,3-oxidosqualene-lanosterol cyclase: featuring enzymic cyclization of modified squalene oxides (1968)|
|Doctoral advisor||Eugene van Tamelen|
Sharpless was born April 28, 1941 in Philadelphia, PA. He graduated from Friends' Central School in 1959, and continued his studies at Dartmouth College, earning an A.B. in 1963 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford University in 1968. He continued post-doctoral work at Stanford University (1968-1969) and Harvard University (1969-1970).
Sharpless was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1970-1977, 1980-1990) and Stanford University (1977-1980). He has held the W. M. Keck professorship in chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute since 1990.
Sharpless developed stereoselective oxidation reactions, and showed that the formation of an inhibitor with femtomolar potency can be catalyzed by the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, beginning with an azide and an alkyne. He discovered several chemical reactions which have transformed asymmetric synthesis from science fiction to the relatively routine, including aminohydroxylation, dihydroxylation, and the Sharpless asymmetric epoxidation.
In 2001 he won a half-share of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on chirally catalysed oxidation reactions (Sharpless epoxidation, Sharpless asymmetric dihydroxylation, Sharpless oxyamination). The other half of the year's Prize was shared between William S. Knowles and Ry?ji Noyori (for their work on stereoselective hydrogenation).
The term "click chemistry" was coined by Sharpless in 1998, and was first fully described by Sharpless, Hartmuth Kolb, and M.G. Finn at The Scripps Research Institute in 2001. This involves a set of highly selective, exothermic reactions which occur under mild conditions; the most successful example is the azide alkyne Huisgen cycloaddition to form 1,2,3-triazoles.
In 2019, Sharpless was awarded the Priestley medal, the American Chemical Society's highest honor, for "the invention of catalytic, asymmetric oxidation methods, the concept of click chemistry and development of the copper-catalyzed version of the azide-acetylene cycloaddition reaction.".