1925-

Koji Nakanishi

Location: Fifth Floor, West Wing, South Wall, Sequence 2

Source: Professor Nakanishi


Nakanishi has determined the structures of over 180 biologically active natural products, including ginkgolides from the ancient gingko tree, insect molting hormones, insect antifeedants, antibiotics, shark repellants from fish, brevetoxins from red-tide dinoflagellates and others. To do this he designed new sophisticated methods that combine spectroscopic and chemical derivatization methods of high sensitivity on a sub-micro scale. First applications of spectroscopic methods now in general use as a consequence of his work include the NMR nuclear Overhauser effect, second derivative FTIR and UV difference spectroscopy and CD spectroscopy, and the exciton coupled circular dichroic method, a sub-microgram scale technique for determining molecular chirality. His studies of retinal analogs made seminal contributions to our understanding of animal vision and phototaxis. Nakanishi is author of over 650 papers and 9 books including an autobiography "A Wandering Natural Products Chemist" (1991).

Professor Nakanishi was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Lyon, London and Alexandria and graduated from Nagoya University in Japan (undergraduate degree 1947, Ph.D. 1954). Since 1969 he has been on the faculty at Columbia University. He also was a founder and Director of Research at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya (1969-1977) and Director of the Suntory Institute for Bioorganic Research at Osaka, Japan (1978-91). He has received many U.S. and international awards among which are the ACS Cope Award (1990) and the National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences (1994). The "Nakanishi Prize", established jointly by the ACS and the Japan Chemical Society in 1996 honors his name. Koji Nakanishi is also an excellent amateur magician who has entertained chemists and others at many scientific gatherings.