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Professor Jonathan Clayden

Professor Jonathan Clayden

Professor Jonathan Clayden
MA, PhD, CChem, FRSC

Professor of Chemistry

Area of research

Organic chemistry – Molecular Synthesis, Shape and Function

Office N219
Cantock's Close,
Clifton, Bristol BS8 1TS
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 3318054


Jonathan Clayden and his research group work on the construction of molecules with defined shapes, and are particular interested in exploring and exploiting molecular conformation.

The shape of a molecule dictates its function, and understanding conformational effects allows us to make molecules that behave in specific ways. We use the understanding we gain from conformational studies to design and synthesise molecular communication devices that transmit information to remote reactive sites, and to make conformationally-defined molecules (foldamers) that mimic biological function.  We also explore new classes of atropisomers for potential use as chiral ligands.

We have also discovered that the restricted conformation of planar functional groups such as amides and ureas endue them, and their anionic (especially organolithium) derivatives, with remarkable new reactive properties which we make use of in the synthesis of valuable, potentially bioactive, target molecules.

Jonathan Clayden is the author of the widely-used textbook Organic Chemistry (Clayden, Greeves and Warren, 2nd edn. published OUP 2012)



Jonathan Clayden was born in Uganda in 1968, grew up in the county of Essex, in the East of England, and was an undergraduate at Churchill College, Cambridge.  In 1992 he completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge with Dr Stuart Warren.  After postdoctoral work with Professor Marc Julia at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, he moved in 1994 to Manchester as a lecturer.  In 2001 he was promoted to a chair in organic chemistry in Manchester, and in 2015 he moved to a position as Professor Chemistry at the University of Bristol.

He has published over 240 papers, and his research interests encompass various areas of synthesis and stereochemistry, particularly where conformation has a role to play: asymmetric synthesis, atropisomerism, organolithium chemistry, and long-range (from 1,20 to 1,60 and beyond) stereocontrol. He has uncovered new classes of atropisomers, and developed new methods for their synthesis. He is partlcularly interested in the reactive properties of functional groups displaying restricted rotation, especially amides and ureas.  In this area, he has invented new ways to use aromatic rings as precursors to non-aromatic biologically active compounds, including the Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning toxins (–)-Isodomoic Acid B, C, E and F, and has developed efficient new synthetic methods for for C–C bond formation by rearrangements of ureas and related functions. His group have designed and explored the function of synthetic molecules with conformational properties that allow them to mimic biological information-processing systems, including the first fully synthetic membrane-bound receptor mimics.

He is a co-author of the widely used textbook “Organic Chemistry” (Clayden, Greeves and Warren, 2nd edn., published by OUP 2012), and his book “Organolithiums: Selectivity for Synthesis” was published by Pergamon in 2002.

He has received the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Meldola (1997) and Corday Morgan (2003) medals, Stereochemistry Prize (2005), Hickinbottom Fellowship (2006) and Merck Prize (2011), and received the Novartis Young European Investigator Award (2004). He has held senior research fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust and the Royal Society, a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit award (2011-2016) and a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Grant (€2.5M, 2011-2016).



  • Organic Chemistry
  • Synthesis
  • Stereochemistry
  • Conformation
  • New Reactivity
  • Amides & Ureas
  • Atropisomerism
  • Organolithiums
  • Dearomatization
  • Nitrogen heterocycles



School of Chemistry

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Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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