Richard F. Heck, American Nobel Prize awarded chemist, died at 84

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Richard Fred Heck, born on August 15, 1931 and passed away October 10, 2015, Richard was an American chemist noted for the discovery and development of the Heck reaction, which uses palladium to catalyze organic chemical reactions that couple aryl halides with alkenes.

Richard was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on October 6, 2010, with the Japanese chemists Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki, for their work in palladium-catalyzed coupling reactions in organic synthesis.

Richard was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1931.

He earned both his bachelor’s degree (1952) and his doctor of philosophy degree (1954) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), working under the supervision of Dr. Saul Winstein.

After two periods of postdoctoral research at the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, and then back at UCLA, Richard took a position with the Hercules Corporation in Wilmington, Delaware in 1957.

After productive research work at Hercules, he was hired by the University of Delaware’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1971.

Richard was a professor of chemistry at the University of Delaware.

The development of the Heck reaction began with Richard ‘s investigations of the coupling of arylmercury compounds with olefins using palladium as a catalyst during the late 1960s.

This work was published in a series of seven consecutive articles in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) for which Richard was the sole author.

During the early 1970s Mizoroki independently reported the use of the less toxic aryl halides as the coupling partner in the reaction and Richard During his career, Richard continued to improve the transformation, developing it into a powerful synthetic method for organic synthesis.

The importance of this reaction grew slowly in the organic synthesis community.

In 1982, Richard was able to write an Organic Reactions chapter that covered all the known instances in just 45 pages.

By 2002, applications had grown to the extent that the Organic Reactions chapter published that year, limited to intramolecular Heck reactions, covered 377 pages.

Today, the Heck reaction stands as one of the widely used methods for the creation of carbon-carbon bonds in the synthesis of organic chemicals.

This reaction has been subject to numerous scientific review articles, including a ~600 page monograph dedicated to this subject published in 2009.

Richard retired from the University of Delaware in 1989, where he remains Willis F. Harrington Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Its annual lectureship was named in his honor in 2004.

In 2005, he was awarded the Wallace H. Carothers Award, which recognizes creative applications of chemistry that have had substantial commercial impact.

He was awarded the 2006 Herbert C. Brown Award for Creative Research in Synthetic Methods.

On 6 October 2010, the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences awarded Richard the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

He shared the 2010 Nobel Prize with Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki “for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis.”

In 2011, Richard was awarded the Glenn T. Seaborg Medal for his work on palladium-catalyzed cross couplings.

Richard Richard now resides in the Philippines.

Richard Heck died on October 10, 2015 in Manila in hospital.