Charles J. Pedersen

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Charles John Pedersen
Charles J. Pedersen.jpg
Born(1904-10-03)October 3, 1904
DiedOctober 26, 1989(1989-10-26) (aged 85)
Alma materUniversity of Dayton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
AwardsNobel Prize in Chemistry (1987)
Scientific career
FieldsOrganic chemistry
Crown ether coordinating a potassium ion

Charles John Pedersen (October 3, 1904 – October 26, 1989) was an American organic chemist best known for describing methods of synthesizing crown ethers. He shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1987 with Donald J. Cram and Jean-Marie Lehn. He is the only Nobel Prize laureate born in Korea other than Peace Prize laureate Kim Dae-jung.[1]


Pedersen was born in Busan, on the coast of south-eastern Korea, to a Norwegian father, Brede Pedersen, and a Japanese mother, Takino (nee Yasui), in 1904.[2] According to an autobiographical article featured on the official website for the Nobel Prize, Pedersen's father was marine engineer who left Norway for East Asia, ultimately finding a position with the Korea Customs Service, then administered by the British, and his mother, born in 1874 in Japan, but lived in Korea as her family were involved in soybean and silk worm trading there.[3] He had two older siblings, a sister named Astrid, and a brother, who died before he was born. As a child, he grew up speaking English, as the area of modern-day North Korea in which he lived was administered by American forces, and he continued to use English while being educated at Catholic schools in Japan, including Saint Joseph College.[4][5] In Japan, he used the Japanese given name Yoshio (良男), which he spelled using the kanji for "good" and "man."[6]

He came to the United States in 1922 to study chemical engineering at the University of Dayton in Ohio. After receiving a bachelor's degree, he went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received a master's degree in organic chemistry. Although his professors encouraged him to pursue a Ph.D. at MIT, Pedersen decided to start his career instead, partially because he no longer wanted to be supported by his father. He is one of the few people to win a Nobel Prize in the sciences without having a Ph.D.[6]

In 1927, Pedersen began working for DuPont where he would remain for the next 42 years, retiring at the age of 65. At DuPont, his work resulted in 25 papers and 65 patents. In 1967 he published two works that are now considered classics;[7] they describe the methods of synthesizing crown ethers (cyclic polyethers).[8] The donut-shaped molecules were the first in a series of extraordinary compounds that form stable structures with alkali metal ions. In 1987 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Donald Cram and Jean-Marie Lehn for his work in this area; Cram and Lehn expanded upon his original discoveries.

Pedersen was diagnosed with myeloma in 1983, and though he was becoming increasingly frail, he traveled to Stockholm to accept the Nobel Prize in late 1987. Shortly thereafter, he was awarded a medal for excellence by the du Pont Research Fellows. He died on 26 October 1989 in Salem, New Jersey.[9]

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  1. ^ "DJ와 또 한 명 … 노벨위원회엔 '한국 출생 수상자' 2명 기록 [DJ and another ... Nobel committee's record of two Korean-born winners]". October 12, 2014.
  2. ^ The Journal of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. ACCJ. 1987. p. 41.
  3. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1987". Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  4. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1987". Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  5. ^ Wong, Sue-Lin; Sagolj, Damir (April 12, 2018). "The Cold Frontier: Dreams of Gold". Reuters. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Charles J. Pedersen - Biographical". The Nobel Foundation.
  7. ^ C. J. Pedersen (1967). "Cyclic polyethers and their complexes with metal salts". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 89 (26): 7017–7036. doi:10.1021/ja01002a035.
  8. ^ Charles J. Pedersen (1988). "Macrocyclic Polyethers:Dibenzo-18-Crown-6 Polyether and Dicyclohexyl-18-Crown-6 Polyether". Organic Syntheses.; Collective Volume, 6, p. 395
  9. ^ "The Benner, Cleaveland and Related Families - Obituary of Charles Pedersen". Archived from the original on February 8, 2011. Retrieved November 7, 2010.

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