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Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou (Greek: Κυριάκος Κ. Νικολάου) is a Cypriot-American chemist known for the total synthesis of natural products.

Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou

Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou


K. C. Nicolaou was born on July 5, 1946, in Karavas, Cyprus where he grew up and went to school until the age of 18. In 1964, he went to England where he spent two years learning English and preparing to enter University. He studied chemistry at the University of London. (B.Sc., 1969, Bedford College; Ph.D. 1972, University College London, with Professors F. Sondheimer and P. J. Garratt). In 1972, he moved to the United States and, after postdoctoral appointments at Columbia University (1972-1973, Professor T. J. Katz) and Harvard University (1973-1976, Professor E. J. Corey), he joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania where he became the Rhodes-Thompson Professor of Chemistry. While at Penn, he won the prestigious Sloan Fellowship.

In 1989, he started at the University of California, San Diego, where he is Professor of Chemistry, and The Scripps Research Institute where he is the Darlene Shiley Professor of Chemistry, and Chairman of the Department of Chemistry. In 1996, he was appointed Aline W. and L.S. Skaggs Professor of Chemical Biology in The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute. Since 2005, he has been directing Chemical Synthesis Laboratory @ ICES-A*STAR, Singapore.

Nicolaou is active in the field of organic chemistry with research interests natural product synthesis and total synthesis. He is responsible for the synthesis of many complex molecules found in nature such as Taxol in the Taxol total synthesis and vancomycin.
Total syntheses accomplished

Endiandric acids A-D (1982)
Amphoteronolide B and Amphotericin B (1987)
Calicheamicin γ1 (1992)
Sirolimus (1993)
Taxol (1994)
Zaragozic acid A (1994)
Brevetoxin B (1995)
Vancomycin (1998)


He is also the co-author of three popular books on total synthesis:

Classics in Total Synthesis I, 1996[1]
Classics in Total Synthesis II, 2003[2]
Classics in Total Synthesis III, 2011[3]

Additionally, he authored or co-authored several other books:

Molecules That Changed the World, 2008
Handbook of Combinatorial Chemistry: Drugs, Catalysts, Materials, 2002
Selenium in Natural Products Synthesis, 1984


K. C. Nicolaou has received numerous awards and honors including:

Schering Prize (Germany)
Aspirin Prize (Spain)
Max Tishler Prize Lecture (Harvard)
Yamada Prize (Japan)
Janssen Prize (Belgium)
Nagoya Medal (Japan)
Centenary Medal (Royal Society UK)
Paul Karrer Medal (Switzerland)
Inhoffen Medal (Germany)
Nichols Medal (USA)
Linus Pauling Award (USA)
1998 Esselen Award (USA)
ACS Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry (USA)
ACS Guenther Award in Natural Products Chemistry (USA)
2003 Nobel Laureate Signature Award in Graduate Education (with Phil S. Baran)
Tetrahedron Prize Award
2011 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry (USA)
Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Member of the National Academy of Sciences
Several honorary degrees


^ Nicolaou, Kyriacos Costa; E. J. Sorensen (1996). Classics in Total Synthesis: Targets, Strategies, Methods. Wiley-VCH. ISBN 3-527-29231-4.
^ Nicolaou, Kyriacos Costa; S. A. Snyder (2003). Classics in Total Synthesis II: More Targets, Strategies, Methods. Wiley-VCH. ISBN 3-527-30684-6.
^ Nicolaou, Kyriacos Costa; J.S. Chen (2011). Classics in Total Synthesis III: Further Targets, Strategies, Methods. Wiley-VCH. ISBN 3-527-32957-9.

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