And the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to… Chemistry!

After yesterday’s Nobel Prize in Physics which went to two relatively young researchers (Andre Geim* and Konstantin Novoselov from the University of Manchester) for a very recent discovery (graphene, isolated in 2004), today’s Prize in Chemistry went to much older people for discoveries made 40 years ago: Richard F. Heck (emeritus professor at the University of Delaware), Prof. Ei-ichi Negishi from Purdue University, and Akira Suzuki (emeritus professor at Hokkaido University) were awarded for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis. As mentioned by the Nobel Committee, the developed reactions made it possible to synthesize many new molecules of biological and medical interest (among them taxol and discodermolide) and will continue to have a great impact on research and engineering in the future. One can speculate whether some other pioneers of palladium catalysis would also have deserved the prize (Stille, Tsuji, Trost) but it’s good to see the Nobel Prize in chemistry awarding ‘real’ chemists again!

On the live webcast visible on the Nobelprize website, the Prize announcement was followed by a live phone interview with Prof. Negishi. He let the audience know he was awaken at 5 in the morning by the phone call announcing him the good news, and that he just had time for a coffee before the interview took place. I imagine this was but the beginning of a very long day for him! Quite amusing was when a journalist asked Negishi about the impact of his discoveries for the human beings. At that, Negishi responded something like ‘Do you have any knowledge of Grignard chemistry?’ The journalist laughed before admitting that he had no clue about it, and Negishi explained the impact of carbon cross couplings in much simpler terms.

* Andre Geim is probably the first researcher to detain a Nobel Prize together with a Ig Nobel Prize, obtained in 2000 for levitating a frog with magnets.

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