Reference numberCOR/1
TitleCollected papers of Sir John Warcup Cornforth
Access statusOpen but with some restrictions
Administrative historySir John Cornforth was born 7 September 1917 in Sydney, Australia. At the age of 10, he was diagnosed with otosclerosis which led to total hearing loss. Sir John attended Sydney Boys' High School, entering Sydney University aged 16, graduating in 1937 with first-class honours and a University medal. He was awarded the 1851 Exhibition Scholarship, allowing him to work at Oxford with Robert Robinson FRS. The other scholarship that year was awarded to Rita Harradence, who like Sir John, was an organic chemist. The two were married in 1941, and had three children together.

After finishing his thesis, both John and Rita Cornforth joined Robinson's team, researching the chemistry of Penicillin. After Oxford, Cornforth joined the scientific staff of the Medical Research Council in 1946, before becoming director of the Shell Milstead Laboratory of Chemical Enzymology, a post he shared with George Popjak, where they continued their collaborative work. At Milstead they collaborated on the stereochemistry of enzymic reactions. Cornforth left Milstead in 1975, to become Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Sussex. He remained at the University of Sussex beyond retirement until he was nearly 90 years of age.

Sir John Cornforth received a number of awards and accolades during his career, including: Election to the Royal Society (1953); Ciba medal (1965); Davy medal (1968); Nobel Prize (1975); Knighted (1975); Royal medal (1976); Copley medal (1982); Companion of the Order of Australia (1991); Centenary medal (2001).

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