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Defining Moment

Richard F. Heck Ph.D.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2010
Nobel co-recipients Ei-ichi Negishizz, Akira Suzuki

Physical organic chemist. Palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling reaction. Sole author - 7 consecutive papers. Heck reaction: important concept, tool for organic and medicinal chemists; fuorescence labeling of DNA bases - sequencing DNA/Genome. Thinner computer screens in future. "Great art in test tube."

Growing orchids in early teens lead to passion for chemistry.

Defining Moment

In 1956, Heck commenced working at the research center of the Hercules Powder Co. (now Ashland Inc.) in Wilmington, Delaware. Probably the 25 year old was hired owing to his knowledge of physical organic chemistry. Using Ziegler-Natta catalysts he worked on developing a commercial process for producing polymers. Ziegler-Natta catalysts are used at present to produce large volumes of rubbers and plastics. Heck felt, that he had accomplished "little of scientific value in the two years that I was in this program." However, that experience was of great value to him for later work. Heck's supervisor Dr. David Breslow, advised him "do something with transition metals". This was a defining moment for the advice lead to Heck's later work regarding transforming modern organic chemistry and the field of transition metal catalysis.

Richard Heck
Photo: Holger Motzkau/Wikimedia Commons

Name: Richard Fred Heck
Birth: 15 August 1931, Springfield, MA, USA
Death: 9 October 2015, Manila, Philippines
Institution: University of Delaware, USA
Award: "for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis"
Subject: Organic chemistry
Portion of cash: 1/3
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