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Karl Anker Jørgensen will be joining an impressive group of ground-breaking chemists from all over the world, including several Nobel Prize winners, when he receives the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal.

2020.01.29 | Kristoffer Jakobsen

“It can be boiled down to a single word. Big!” says Karl Anker Jørgensen when asked how it feels to receive the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal. Photo: Lars Kruse, AU.

“It can be boiled down to a single word. Big!” says Karl Anker Jørgensen when asked how it feels to receive the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal.

And there is good reason for that. Professor Karl Anker Jørgensen’s ‘outstanding scientific achievements of global significance’ are stated as the reason for awarding him the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal in September. With this acknowledgement, the chemistry professor from Aarhus University joins an exclusive group, counting an impressive list of chemists, including several Nobel Prize winners, for example 2009 Nobel Prize winner Ada Yonath from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and 2016 Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa from the University of Gronningen.

Another former recipient of the Maria Skłodowska-Curie medal is 1981 Nobel Prize winner Roald Hoffmann from Cornell University, and in 1985, Karl Anker Jørgensen was a postdoc at his department.

"Roald Hoffmann and I have a very close and personal relationship. We recently published an article together which will bring his ground-breaking discoveries into a new era and which opens up for brand new chemistry. Being awarded the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal is like a beautiful compound, a chemical bond, from Roald Hoffmann to me," says Karl Anker Jørgensen, emphasising that he is not the only researcher at the Department of Chemistry doing cutting-edge research:

"I see this as an important acknowledgement of our research at the department, and not least recognition of Denmark as being capable of conducting high-level research that can win international prestige and veneration." 

In the footsteps of one of the greatest

Being mentioned in the same sentence as the medal’s namesake is not so bad either. And there is good reason why the medal is named after the Polish-French physicist and chemist Marie Curie (née Maria Skłodowska). 

"Marie Curie is one of the greatest personalities in science. This is not least due to her scientific achievements in discovering radioactivity. Along with her husband, Pierre Curie, and Henri Becquerel she won the Nobel Prize for Physics for this discovery in 1903. And later, her discovery of polonium and radium won her the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911," says Karl Anker Jørgensen, adding:

"Therefore, receiving the medal in Poland, Marie Curie’s country of birth, adds a special dimension. I've known about her work since I learned about radioactivity for the first time at secondary school. I spent the Christmas holidays reading up on Marie Curie. For example, I read her daughter, Ève Curie’s, biography. This has given a deep sense of respect, and not least humility, towards Marie Curie. She’s an important figure for me, not least at personal level."

Asymmetric catalysis wins AU yet another prize

Over the years, Karl Anker Jørgensen has won great recognition for his internationally ground-breaking results in the field of asymmetric catalysis. Most recently, in the autumn of 2019, Karl Anker Jørgensen received the prestigious H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal for his scientific discoveries and his abilities to communicate his results to a broader audience. It was the first time for 30 years that the medal had been awarded. It has only been awarded 16 times since 1909, and Niels Bohr was one of the first recipients in 1924. The Curie Medal will win Karl Anker Jørgensen international recognition and will attract even more positive attention to his field of research throughout the world.

Asymmetric catalysis is the phenomenon that two molecules which are each other’s mirror images can have entirely different properties. In the laboratory, the formation of molecules can be controlled so that a molecule is only formed in one mirror-image shape. This particular process is the basis for Karl Anker Jørgensen’s research, which, among other things, is used to produce medicinal products under more sustainable conditions. 

Professor Karl Anker Jørgensen

  • Born in Aarhus in 1955. Upper secondary school-leaving certificate from Aarhus Akademi in 197.
  • Graduated in chemistry from Aarhus University in 1982. Subsequently a postdoc, assistant professor, associate professor and professor of chemistry
  • Visiting academic staff member at Cornell University in the USA in 1985 and 1988
  • Since 1994, a member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters and from 2016 a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • Winner of a large number of Danish and international awards
  • Married, with children and grandchildren

Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal

The Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal will be awarded at the annual meeting of the Polish Chemical Society in September. The medal is awarded in appreciation of outstanding scientific achievement of global significance. 

Find out more

From 'not suitable for upper secondary school' to ground-breaking researcher - read a portrait of Karl Anker Jørgensen here

Professor Karl Anker Jørgensen receives H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal in chemistry

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