Remembering Koji Nakanishi
The magical life of Japan’s pioneering AMD researcher
Phoebe Harkin | | Quick Read
- Born in Hong Kong on May 11, 1925, Nakanishi gained his PhD in Chemistry from Nagoya University in Japan, before joining Columbia University in 1969
- His group determined the structure of over 200 biologically active natural products, including ginkgolides (from the ancient ginkgo tree), insect hormones, antibiotics, and the human eye pigment involved in macular degeneration
- Synthesizing more than 100 analogs of retinoids – including A2E, the fluorophore found in the outer segment membrane of photoreceptors – Nakanishi’s research offered invaluable insight into the inner workings of animal vision and phototaxis
- He received countless awards throughout his career, including the coveted Order of Culture medal from the Emperor of Japan
- Passing peacefully on March 28, 2019, Nakanishi is remembered as an extraordinary chemist and a passionate amateur magician, who frequently entertained his audiences with live magic shows.