Organic Chemist. Inventor of organozinc variant of the palladium catalyzed cross-coupling reaction. Read voraciously including "how to …" publications. Dreamt of Nobel half century prior to being awarded prize. Upon arriving in US and discovering Nobelists visiting UPenn, realized that being awarded the Nobel could happen to anybody including himself.
By Dan Lednicer Ph.D., Organic/Medicinal Chemist
Future Nobel laureate Ei-ichi Negishi was born in 1935 in Xinjin in what was at the time Japanese-controlled Manchukuo and is now Changchun, China. He received his initial education in Harbin and in Seoul as his family moved around then-Japanese controlled Asia. After graduating from high school Negishi enrolled in the prestigious University of Tokyo. He graduated from there in 1958 with a Bachelor of Engineering degree. He then went to work in the research laboratories of the Teijin polymer producing firm. It was there that he realized that his background in synthetic organic chemistry was lacking. Negishi consequently decided to remedy the weakness by returning to school for further training. His employer, Teijin would grant him a leave of absence while in graduate school. Negishi took the exam for a Fulbright scholarship in 1960 and was awarded the same. He came to the U.S. that fall and enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania where his preceptor was Professor Allan. R. Day. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1963 Negishi returned to Japan where he as per prior agreement he resumed his position at Teijin. Just three years later in 1966 he returned to the U.S. in order to become a postdoc with Herbert C. Brown at Purdue University. In 1972 he moved to Syracuse University where he accepted the position of Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry. Negishi returned to West Lafayette this time as full Professor in the Chemistry Department.
Forming carbon to carbon bonds represents one of the key operations in synthetic organic chemistry. This is the means by which chemists assemble smaller fragments for building target molecules. The traditional methods for coupling fragments via new carbon to carbon bonds had severe limitations. Many of those procedures required harsh conditions that might damage either the starting materials or final products. This would consequently require extra steps in the synthetic scheme to add and later remove protecting groups. In the late 1960s Richard F. Heck published a series of papers describing a new procedure for coupling fragments that relied on a palladium complex catalyst. Ei-ichi Negishi subsequently developed a related procedure for linking fragments via carbon to carbon bonds. One of the fragments in the Negishi procedure featured a carbon to zinc bond; like the Heck procedure it also used a palladium derivative as a catalyst. Negishi shared the Nobel Prize awarded in 2010 "for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis" with Richard F. Heck and Akira Suzuki.
IN CONVERSATION, CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 104, NO. 3, 10 FEBRUARY 2013 by K. V. Soumya, Science Writing Intern.
The Pursuit of Dreams over 50 Years: Dr. Ei-ichi Negishi. In this special program, Dr. Negishi speaks about the importance of finding a field in which one is interested, and making a continuous effort to achieve one's goals. Dr. Negishi will share his own experiences about the continued efforts that led to his long-coveted prize.
Name: Ei-ichi Negishi
Birth: 14 July 1935, Changchun, China
Institution: Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA
Award: "for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis"
Subject: organic chemistry
Portion of cash: 1/3
Dreaming of Prize
Honoring Ei-ichi Negishi
Nobel Medal Cash