Presented March 2002
William S Knowles was born on June 1, 1917 in Massachusetts. He did his undergraduate work at Harvard, his graduate work at Columbia University, followed by a research position at Monsanto.
After a brief stint in Dayton, OH, he was transferred to St Louis in 1944, where he has been ever since. While here, he showed that it was possible to use transition metals to make chiral catalysts for hydrogenation, thereby obtaining the desired mirror image form of the final product. His research quickly led to an industrial process for the production of L-DOPA, a drug that is still used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. In 2001, he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work.