Karl Anker Jørgansen

L2Karl Anker Jørgansen – world-famous organic chemist. His personal quest is to achieve through basic research what he calls “beautiful” chemical synthesis of new products that have the potential to empower our lives. In the process of achieving pre-eminence in the field of organo-catalysis (the use of organic molecules that are not metals to accelerate chemical reactions), professor Jorgensen has garnered international awards, including the Bjerrum Medal, The Lundbeck Foundation Nordic Research Prize, Cornell University’s Blomquist Award, the Knights Cross 1st Class of the Order of the Dannebrog, and – most recently- Denmark’s prestigious Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize.

Professor Jørgensen works at the Center for Catalysis at Aarhus Universitet in Aarhus, Denmark. The Jørgensen group is a leader in the relatively new field of “organocatalysis” (molecular gastronomy), which involves the use of small organic molecules to catalyze stereoselective reactions. Catalysis is one of the most important processes for the formation of molecules. Molecules shaped by catalysis are applied to generate food for more than 7 billion people. Approximately 70 percent of all products are formed by catalytic processes, life as we know it is based on catalysis and 20-25 percent of the world economy is generated by catalysis.

Jørgensen was born in Aarhus, Denmark (1955) and graduated from Aarhus university in 1975. He was not only interested in science, but also was pursuing careers in sports, as the year following his graduation he won his first medal at Danish championships in athletics and he became Denmark’s champion in decathlon. A couple years later, in 1978 he became a Danish champion in 110 meters speed race as he finished in 14.72 seconds. The following two years he also won DM twice. In 1980 he also won a gold medal in decathlon with 7278 points.

In 1981, he stepped away from sports, Dr. Roald Hoffmann of Cornell university received a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in theoretical chemistry. Once he has returned to school and completed studies for a PhD in a combination of organic and theoretical chemistry, it was his dream to further his studies with Dr. Hoffmann. Eventually, the professor welcomed his entreaties with a handwritten note that opened the door to a long and fruitful friendship that continues to this day.

The year following his graduation he became an assistant professor at Aarhus University and in 1989 he became a lecturer. Three years later, he was appointed professor in the same place. The following year received the Bjerrum medal, named after another Danish chemist named Niels Bjerrum. Furthermore, two years later he became the Leader of the Centre for Catalysis at the Danish Foundation for Research.

His current research topics include organic chemistry, catalysis, asymmetrical catalysis and mirror chemistry.


 “The word “scientist” means to be creative and innovative. My secret/not‐so‐secret passion is art in the form of modern paintings, graphics, and rock music.”
“A good work day begins with … the smile and excitement of a student or postdoc presenting new and exciting chemistry that they have discovered.“