Photo of Gilbert Stork

Gilbert Stork

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry
For his contributions as one of the world’s most innovative and productive organic synthetic chemists who has discovered a variety of important synthetic reactions which have made possible the synthesis of some of the most complicated and important biologically active compounds.

As one of the world’s most talented scientists, Gilbert Stork’s legacy would be secure just from his groundbreaking accomplishments in organic synthesis. But Stork’s contributions go much deeper. As an instructor he has had an influential role in training a succession of scientists prepared to carry the torch.

Born in Belgium, Stork came to the United States with his family in 1939. He earned a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin and, save for a year or so as a researcher for a private company, has enjoyed a decades-long career at two of the world’s most prominent universities.

Never one to seek the limelight, Stork’s accomplishments nonetheless qualify him for it. His research has been pivotal to the development of synthetic methodology, including the Stork enamine reaction. And his sense of humor and humble nature made him the perfect instructor and co-worker, colleagues said.

Stork joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1946 and taught there until 1963, when he joined Columbia University. In 1993 he became professor emeritus at Columbia.

By Robert Warren