Elias James Corey (born July 12, 1928) is an American organic chemist. In 1990 he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his development of the theory and methodology of organic synthesis", specifically retrosynthetic analysis. Regarded by many as one of the greatest living chemists, he has developed numerous synthetic reagents, methodologies, and has advanced the science of organic synthesis considerably.
E.J. Corey was born to Lebanese immigrants in Methuen, Massachusetts, 50 km (30 miles) north of Boston. His mother changed his name to "Elias" to honor his father who died eighteen months after the birth of his son. His widowed mother, brother, two sisters and an aunt and uncle all lived together in a spacious house—struggling through the depression. He attended Catholic elementary school and Lawrence Public High School.
He entered MIT in 1945. At MIT, he earned both a bachelor's degree in 1948 and a Ph.D. at age 22 in 1951. Both degrees were in chemistry. Immediately thereafter, he joined the faculty of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he became a Full Professor of Chemistry in 1956 at the age of 27. In 1959, he moved to Harvard University, where he is currently an emeritus professor of organic chemistry with an active Corey Group research program. He focuses on organic chemistry because of "its intrinsic beauty and its great relevance to human health". He has been an advisor to Pfizer for more than 50 years.