Talk:Elias James Corey

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Slant of this article[edit]

Looking at recent edits and reverts on this page, I believe that the page at present seems overly negative, and not in accordance with the NPOV Wikipedia is supposed to uphold. I think there should be a section on graduate student deaths, as these are a serious issue, but much of the tone of the article goes beyond simply reporting the facts. An article like this should not seem to pass judgement on whether people are "nice people", it should instead try to present information in a dispassionate way. Whatever character flaws he may have, EJ has made huge contributions to organic chemistry, and there needs to be more balance in this article. Walkerma 16:09, 25 July 2005 (UTC)

A very poor account of an influential scientist[edit]

This page is fairly juvenile right now. EJ Corey is one of the most influential chemists of the twentieth century, it would be difficult to carry out more than five reactions in the laboratory without encountering the massive sphere of influence that his work commands. The deaths of graduate students in his group have to be discussed within this context. Hanging the whole page around this issue, with minimal presentation of Corey's work and accomplishments, is just silly.

Everyone knows corey is a twat!

he is a bully and stole lygo's catalyst, to the extent it now has to be called corey's catalyst, or corey-lygo. and as for claiming he thought up woodward hoffman rules... what a bellend he is. above his station and clearly bullies his students. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:16, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

Corey is Certainly Above all the Synthetic Chemists Ever[edit]

I am citing the following excerpts from the Press release about Corey being awarded the Nobel prize. Please include it in the main body of the write up, as it very correctly and genuinely places him on top of the chemists of his generations and also before his times in bringing the organic synthesis to its current mature stage:

From the Press Release: The 1990 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

To perform the total syntheses successfully, Corey was also obliged to develop some fifty entirely new or considerably improved synthesis reactions or reagents. It is probable that no other chemist has developed such a comprehensive and varied assortment of methods which, often showing the simplicity of genius, have become commonplace in the synthesising laboratory. His systematic use of different types of organometallic reagent has revolutionised recent techniques of synthesis in many respects.

Headings added[edit]

OK folks. You're right, the article is one-sided. The only cure is to write something. I've added an image and a few subject headings. Let's fill them up with EJ's accomplishments so the article isn't so one sided. ~K 18:41, 31 July 2005 (UTC)

totally rubbish and one-sided article. E J is certainly the most inspiring organic chemist of our time and he certainly has redefined the way we think and carry out organic chemistry reactions. He made an endless number of contributions not only to the chemistry community but also for the betterment of mankind, and he is still continuing to do so as we speak now. He is such a brilliant organic chemist who will never stop inspiring us...

Nuclear holocaust line[edit]

I'm not a chemist and I don't want to comment on the slant of the article. But I'm removing the following phrase:

even if the world is ending in a nuclear holocaust and Dr. Corey's only chance for survival is for you to burst in and drag him to a bomb shelter, you may still not enter

as it is unverifiable, illogical (if the world ends, Corey dies, like everyone else), smacks of POV and is not the suitable tone for an encyclopedia. --JJay 00:43, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

Whilst I agree to an extent, it is perhaps an urban myth, and if you're going to remove the phrase you may as well remove the bit about the red/green light too, otherwise it seems a bit wierd standing alone. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk • contribs) 16:08, 23 November 2005 (UTC).

I'm not sure if Corey is the subject of myth, urban or otherwise, but I have no objection if you want to remove the red light/green light bit. Whoever added the info apparently wanted to convey the idea that Prof. Corey is a hardass. Nevertheless, the traffic light on his door is perhaps verifiable, unlike speculation on his reaction in the event of nuclear armageddon.-- JJay 19:58, 23 November 2005 (UTC)

Expansion notice[edit]

I added the expansion notice to motivate us all add to this article. E. J. is one of the greatest living chemists, and deserves a quality article. While the current content is true, it reads one-sided. So lets start writing! ~K 22:51, 29 October 2005 (UTC)


I added a qoute, information about him winning the priestly award, and a list of publications.

- Jo Jo The Magic Chimp

Why have these three 1990s publications randomly in the middle of the article? If they're truly important, why not in the references section? Why these three articles since he's published lots more than that? Olin
You're quite right, these are not presented appropriately. These publications may represent the pinnacle of Corey's work (I don't know), if they are they need to be described in prose and listed as references. I put the list into a hidden comment so the information is there for someone to expand upon. Walkerma 02:34, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

Corey's Work[edit]

Something about Corey seems to inspire heated emotions in people; there seems to be as many people who dislike him as there are who lavishly praise him. A grad student told me in 1999 the story of the traffic light, which I found amusing. But he also felt that Corey has padded his career resume to the point that it overflows more in "quantity" than in "quality". For example, (according to the student) Corey has "discovered" many of his published reactions simply by having students apply as much pressure or heat as necessary until the hoped-for reaction finally takes place. (Reaction doesn't work? Just keep applying more pressure. Still not going? Keep adding pressure, plus more heat.) The result is a lot of reactions that can only be duplicated in laboratory settings, never on a large scale. Of course, the student admitted that "Corey has done some very important things." But I've heard similar grumblings about Corey from other people. (Then again, Derek Barton had one or two suicides in his own lab, and isn't remembered all that fondly by everybody...) J.R. Hercules 06:14, 4 February 2006 (UTC)

Grad student death deleted[edit]

The grad student death section (should really be graduate student suicide) was deleted today. I was wondering what people's opinion on this was. I think it's an important aspect of the chemistry community, but the section was a bit larger than the Coery's chemistry, which perhaps made the suicide a bit overemphasized. I am personally for a revert and maybe revise. Olin 19:46, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

This has happened before. We have pruned this section a bit - it used to be practically the entire article. I think we could reasonably cut it down a lot, but still leave the section in. Someone familiar with Corey needs to really give this a good rewrite with refs- I am less familiar with his work and can only do bits & pieces. Walkerma 21:49, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

Controversy over Woodward-Hoffmann Rules[edit]

While reflecting on it, we must not forget that, in 1973, R. B. Woodward was involved in a similar controversy with the 1973 Nobel laureate, Geoffrey Wilkinson, over the structure and aromaticity of ferrocenes. Reflecting on their collaborative work done in 1951-52, at Harvard, much later, Woodward and Wilkinson both gave totally different accounts. In 1973, while upset at not being included in that year's Nobel Prize awarded jointly to Wilkinson and Fischer, on the work done on ferrocenes, Woodward wrote to the Nobel committee, that "Both of these concepts were simply, completely, and entirely mine, and mine alone, ...and that Wilkinson's initial reaction to my views was close to derision." Whereas, Wilkinson has stated that he had thought up the structure several days prior to his conversation with Woodward.Obviously, Woodward was a man with a history of such conflicts! Now, as for the Woodward-Hoffmann Rules, in lieu of Woodward's own words on Corey's contributions in the conceptualization of this theory, Hoffmann's biased account should not be given much weight! The Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society: Of Sandwiches and Nobel Prizes:

While I respect your POV, I don't think that Corey's claim to the W-H rules is verifiable, and I do question why Corey didn't mention it earlier if he really thought he had a claim to them. Wilkinson, Hoffmann and Corey are all great chemists. I think you imply (maybe you don't, and maybe it's unintentional) by your paragraph that Corey is "conflict-free," and that Hoffmann and Wilkinson were/are somehow less great, which I think is horribly misleading. Olin 16:17, 15 May 2006 (UTC)

Source for the red/green light[edit]

Someone deleted the bit of trivia about the red/green light at Corey's office door for being "irrelevant and unsourced". We can debate whether it is relevant or not (IMO it should be mentioned in the article), but here is a published source in case someone is interested:

If you wanted to speak with the lab chief, according to former students, you would knock on the door and take your cue from a pair of red and green lights beside the door frame. Despite the unusual traffic signals, Corey also had the reputation of being very accessible.
STEPHEN S. HALL; Lethal Chemistry at Harvard; New York Times Magazine; November 29, 1998

Itub 14:24, 13 June 2006 (UTC)

i clicked on the link. it went nowhere. a google search got this link which worked.[1] maybe it's the same. the article was halfway neutral. the suicide segment certainly needs to be rewritten. It has way too much emphasis.Godspeed John Glenn! Will 23:40, 26 March 2007 (UTC)


I removed the phrase "Some see this as an indication of the difficulty associated with this project and of the unrealistic expectations that the student may have place upon himself at the time." There are a lot of reasons why a project may not have been continued. "Some see..." make this sound like a POV, weasel wordy, if you will. Olin 15:44, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Graduate Student Separate Page[edit]

Tried that. And didn't work. Apparent somebody has a redirect from Alton back to Corey. Half of Corey's page doesn't need to be about Alton. Alton committed suicide because he had a genetic susceptibility plus whatever environmental disruptor he faced. Somebody else would have told the prof to go tweak himself and gone to med school. There has to be some personal responsibility too. Godspeed John Glenn! Will 16:46, 27 March 2007 (UTC) Corey was 70 years old when the Alton dead occurred. Godspeed John Glenn! Will 16:47, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Apparently, when i tried to create an Alton page i created it under some other chemist name, Anderson somebody, i left a note on it and deleted all content. very embarrassing. I"ll be OK. That's why i didn't notice the redirect. That brings up the question of how to get rid of redirects once made. Godspeed John Glenn! Will 00:30, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

I have created a new Jason Alton page. If there is a redirect, once you get redirected you can click on the small link at the top of the page and it will take you to the actual redirect page itself. I did that and copied the older text into the Jason Alton page. Can you check that you think it's OK. I notice that all this stuff needs citations - could you find some? The only thing referenced right now is the total synthesis paper. Walkerma 04:33, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

Darn it. the error propogates. the unfortuante guy's name is Altom not Alton. that's why the link above is a dead link. i clicked on Walkerma's contributions to see where he created it. I"ll let him fix it or at least give him the reasonable opportunity to do it. I sure would hate to screw it up again. thanks for the info about the redirects. Godspeed John Glenn! Will 18:34, 29 March 2007 (UTC)It is so easy to get mixed up. Actually the link was done correctly, the page on ALTOM is correct just the discussion name ALTON is wrong. There is nothing to fix. Whew. Godspeed John Glenn! Will 18:39, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

The Impact of Corey's Phenomenal Contributions on Synthetic Chemistry[edit]


'E.J. Corey is one of the most important chemists of our century, says Peter Dervan of Caltech. Born in Methuen, Mass., and educated at M.I.T., Corey is one of the most prolific organic chemists of this century. His area of specialty is synthetic organic chemistry -- that is, developing new reactions and building naturally occurring chemical compounds from scratch. In the course of a career whose productivity is almost without precedent, he and the members of his lab have synthesized more than 100 naturally occurring chemical compounds, many of them with significant medical or industrial implications. He was born brilliant and he'll die brilliant, says A.I. Meyers of Colorado State University. I would rank him as one of the two or three greatest scientists in the century, and the entire pharmaceutical industry has been living off his chemistry for years. The extended family of Corey group members has published, by one estimation, a phenomenal 100,000 scientific papers. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:25, 2 September 2007 (UTC)

AFSP reference is misstated[edit]

The paper from the ASFP is not a reprint of a NYT article, nor was it written by Keith Richburg. It is signed with the initials "HH and MA", meaning it is essentially anonymous. As it stands, the article gives this source undue prominence. I am going to revert to this version] unless we can decide how to better incorporate it, or whether to incorporate it at all. Skinwalker (talk) 20:28, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Instead of reverting, I've now fixed the citation and streamlined the section. Skinwalker (talk) 20:55, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
I support Skinwalker's version. We shouldn't give undue weight to the ASFP report, and a line noting that they believe Corey was scapegoated is sufficient. Gigs (talk) 15:28, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Skinwalker's Request that All Changes to the Graduate Suicide Section be Posted Here[edit]

I am perplexed as to why Skinwalker keeps insisting that any change to the graduate student suicide section that, in my opinion, takes the focus off of Corey as being responsible for Altom's death be discussed in this section. I look forward to a discussion in this forum with Skinwalker regarding why a reasonable person would not draw the conclusion that this issue is personally important to Skinwalker and that Skinwalker wants to pick and choose which facts to include in such a way that Corey is to be held responsible. If Skinwalker cannot be objective about this issue, then Skinwalker should not be making any changes to the Corey page.

It is vitally important to recognize the role of depression in suicide. Indeed, the AFSP clearly states that depression and not Corey was the most likely direct cause of Altom's suicide. Not to recognize that depression most likely played a major role is to condemn those with depression and the families who suffer with them to inadequate intervention that might save people's lives. If you do not understand the cause of a condition, you cannot intervene in a way that can improve the condition. By placing a "blame" on someone for an individual's suicide, you ignore the only possible life saving intervention - a recognition of the terrible illness of depression that can be fatal - and intervention addressing the illness itself.

I would like Skinwalker to explain why Skinwalker deletes any mention of depression in the graduate student suicide section. If Skinwalker does not believe depression to be a major - and often fatal - illness, I would like to know what reasoning brings Skinwalker to that conclusion. I am interested in ensuring that people suffering from depression get the help they need. I am left wondering what Skinwalker is interested in accomplishing and by what authority Skinwalker has decided that he/she is the determiner of truth in the Corey page. Skinwalker should not be arbitrating content on the Corey page. Skinwalker seems to be too personally involved.

Trvthchem (talk) 07:34, 21 November 2010 (UTC)Trvthchem

Thank you for taking this to the talk page. I would suggest reading about wp:dispute resolution if you would like some other editors to take a look. --CutOffTies (talk) 16:21, 21 November 2010 (UTC)

From Trvthchem (talk) 23:31, 22 November 2010 (UTC)Trvthchem Thank you CutOffTies for the information. I have posted the following to the "Biographies of living persons/Noticeboard". "At issue is the content of the Graduate student suicides section of the page on Elias James Corey. The main article cited in this section is the New York Times Article “Lethal Chemistry at Harvard” that according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is an example of problematic reporting that unfairly scapegoats and harms Corey. All attempts to either delete this section or provide a balanced view that depression most likely played a role in a specific graduate student’s suicide (Jason Altom) have been consistently removed. The content on graduate student suicides should, in my opinion, either be removed or reflect the fact that the AFSP clearly states that Corey was not to blame for Altom’s suicide. The constant reverting by some editors to a version that blames Corey is, in my opinion, not only in direct contrast to all that we now know about the need to clearly identify depression and intervene effectively but is also a form of cyber bullying of Corey. I would like the edits that either remove this section or provide a balanced view to remain without reversion to the version I consider biased. The AFSP does not consider the cited New York Times article as a valid and reliable source of information on Altom's suicide. What is the next step?"

Just a quick note - I am traveling in rural Southeast Asia and do not have consistent internet access. I will comment further next week. I support Anythingyouwant's recent edits. Skinwalker (talk) 12:17, 24 November 2010 (UTC)

BLPN Discussion[edit]

Click here if you'd like to join the discussion at the Biographies of Living Persons Noticeboard.Anythingyouwant (talk) 03:10, 24 November 2010 (UTC)


Per the cited source:

According to the notes he left, he was certain that his dreamed-of career in academia was doomed. Those fears were apparently baseless. Corey did not want to comment for this story, but students and professors say Altom retained his adviser's support.

Anythingyouwant (talk) 23:17, 10 August 2011 (UTC)

Hm, I mistakenly checked the wrong source. Revert if you want, but I would prefer that we paraphrase as "apparently baseless". Thanks, Skinwalker (talk) 23:22, 10 August 2011 (UTC)

Article too long[edit]

This article seems needlessly complicated and too long. There is also no reason to include large numbers of organic reaction mechanisms in a Wikipedia article, which should be written for general audiences. Sure, one or two reactions is fine. Leave it at that. I would recommend cutting it down a bit. He may be an important scientist, but he is not Einstein either.Boab (talk) 22:52, 4 March 2014 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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Who else committed suicide in EJ's lab????[edit]

Help! I am trying to find out the names, death-dates, and suicide methods, of the OTHER two grad students, BESIDES Jason Altom, who committed suicide in EJ Corey's lab--there were THREE total suicides there. I've been searching the internet for MORE THAN TWO HOURS and I cannot find their names anywhere. Does anyone out there in Wiki-land know their names, and can you find a source??? Please reply to my TALK page. Thanks! HandsomeMrToad (talk) 07:49, 28 December 2016 (UTC)