István Markó (June 18, 1956 – July 31, 2017) was a scientist and organic chemist. He was lecturer in the University of Sheffield for 5 years and subsequently for more than twenty years at the Université catholique de Louvain.
He is best known for his numerous contributions to the total synthesis of natural products, including an unpublished total synthesis of Ambruticin.
Professor Markó was also an accomplished mentor of young chemists and many of his students have gone on to make significant contributions in their own right.
István was the eldest of three brothers and he was born in Pápa (Hungary) in 1956. His family fled the Soviet repression in 1956 and settled initially in Jemelle, a small village in the Belgian Ardennes when he was only 4 months old. The family subsequently moved to Wavre where he spent his teenage years.
He always had two passions: science and drawing, and although he had a hard time making a choice between the two, happily he finally opted for chemistry, although he always kept alive his passion for comics and drawing. He was happily married to Patricia and had 2 children, Imre and Aurélia.
After his schooling in Wavre, Istvan studied for a "Licence en Sciences Chimiques" at the Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium) from 1974 to 1978 (Summa cum Laude). He then obtained his PhD in 1983 under the supervision of professor L. Ghosez, in collaboration with Union Chimique Belge; the thesis was entitled "Semi-synthesis of Tricyclic Penicillins" (Summa Cum Laude).
Between 1983 and 1985 he undertook postdoctoral studies in the group of L. Ghosez ("Intramolecular Keteniminium Cycloadditions. A New Route Towards Prostaglandins"). Then between 1985 and 1987, he moved to Burlington (University of Vermont, Vermont, USA), working in the group of professor M.E. Kuehne ("Biomimetic Total Synthesis of Monoterpene Indole Alkaloids and Binary Vinca Alkaloids"). In 1987 he joined the research group of professor K.B. Sharpless (MIT, Massachusetts, USA) and worked on the Catalytic Asymmetric Osmylation of Olefins.
In 1988, he decided to move back to Europe to take up a lecturer position in the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, where he stayed for 5 years. In 1993 he had the opportunity to come back to his alma mater, where he stayed until his death in 2017.
As a professor, he gave courses to bachelor's and master's students of chemistry and bio-engineering (Organic chemistry, Medicinal chemistry, Applied organic chemistry, Biosynthesis and total synthesis of natural products and Industrial chemistry…).
The main research areas in his laboratory were : Short, efficient and stereocontrolled total synthesis of natural products - Extraction, purification and structure identification of novel natural products - Development of new methodologies based on multiple bonds and ring formation - Asymmetric catalysis with and without metals - New organometallic reagents -Anionic polycyclisation reactions -Electroorganic synthesis - Development of ecological processes – Botanochemistry - Utilisation of enzymes and microorganisms in organic chemistry - Use of CO2 as a basic 1-carbon unit...
In the course of his career, Professor Markó supervised 39 post-docs, 66 PhD students, 92 master students and 58 bachelor students.
In January 1995, a group of young chemists including Ari Koskinen, Anita Maguire, Dieter Schinzer, Ben Ferringa, Martin Maier, Donald Craig, Maurizio Taddei,... and István Markó, launched the European Chemical Society (ECS), which at its inception, anticipated working together with the existing national chemical societies to promote chemistry at the European level. ECS has since been subsumed by EUCHEM.
During his career, professor Markó received several awards :“Concours Universitaire” (1979), “Prix J. S. Stas” (1983), “Prix P. Bruylants” (1984), R.S.C. Perkin Division Academic Staff Conference Award (1989), Nuffield Foundation Award to Newly Appointed Science Lecturers (1989), Royal Society Parliamentary Grant (1990), Zeneca Fellow (1994 to 1997), Merck Young Investigator Award (1995 - Left picture), Merck Fellow (1996-1997), Prix Triennal de la Société Royale de Chimie (Belgium), Sandoz Chemistry Lectureship (1996), Merck Academic Development Program Award (1996-1999, 2001-2008), Member of the Hungarian Science Academy (2000), Rhodia Oustanding Award and Merck-Froost Lectureship (2002), AstraZeneca European Lectureship (2003), Merck Lectureship Award, Upper Rhine Lectureship Award and Zeneca Foreign Lectureship Award (2005), Prix Tractebel Environnement (2006), Roche Chemistry Lectureship (2007), Boehringer Ingelheim Distinguished Lectureship (2008), Seasky Award Fellowship (2011-2013), Recipient of the High End Award (2014)…
He was scientific referee for many journals, including Advanced Synthesis & Catalysis, Angewandte Chemie, Chemical Communications. Chemistry a European Journal, European Journal of Organic Chemistry, Journal of the American Chemistry Society, Journal of Molecular Catalysis, Journal of Organometallic Chemistry, Perkin Transactions, Journal of Organic Chemistry, Synlett, Tetrahedron Asymmetry, Tetrahedron Letters, Tetrahedron.
Professor Markó was consultant/ member of scientific directorate for a number of companies including Janssen Pharmaceutica, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Rhône-Poulenc, Rhodia, Lytix Biopharma. A.S. (Norway).
During his career he was member of the Advisory Board of Perkin Publication, Chairman of the European Chemical Society, member of the Editorial Board of ARKIVOC, and member of the Editorial Board of Chemistry, a European Journal.
He was the author of over 250 publications, more than 200 of them in refereed journals, 19 patents and 16 reviews for books, as well as 38 articles in Belgian newspapers on "Chemistry in our Society". He delivered more than 20 general public lectures on "the key-role of chemistry in our modern society" and gave more than 350 conferences worldwide.
Istvan regularly took part in television broadcasts (RTBF and RTLtvi) to popularize science in order to make it more accessible. He was particularly active, together with his faithful technician Fabio Lucaccioni, in performing chemistry shows for schools, notably in collaboration with the Belgium section of the Royal Society of Chemistry, in order to encourage younger pupils to get excited about science, and in particular Chemistry.
Professor Marko was able to generate the desire to do chemistry among many students, but he has also left an indelible memory in even more students who were "hermetic" to organic chemistry.
We are proud to salute a truly great Scientist, Professor, Mentor and Friend!