This year, a chemistry prize for the chemists!
I’m having to catch a plane but wanted to drop a quick note about this morning’s prize announcement. Steve Ritter, Carmen Drahl, Elizabeth Wilson and others have written extensively at C&EN about Pd-catalyzed cross-couplings and the work of Richard Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi, and Akira Suzuki.
In going through the archives this morning, I was drawn to Carmen’s excellent article on named reactions where she discussed the Mizoroki-Heck reaction, but was struck by a letter that followed on June 21:
I congratulate Carmen Drahl on her article on named chemical reactions, and especially for choosing a dramatic case: the Mizoroki-Heck reaction (C&EN, May 17, page 31). Both inventors had a cruel personal bend in their respective careers despite glamorous success and acclamation from the chemical community.
Tsutomu Mizoroki succumbed to pancreatic cancer only nine years after his breakthrough discovery of the palladium-catalyzed reaction. Richard F. Heck, despite an excellent publication record in ACS journals, lost funding, doesn’t have a single entry in PubMed, and is relegated to the eternal waiting list for the Nobel Prize. I fully agree with Victor A. Snieckus that Heck’s nomination for the Nobel Prize is overdue, also in remembrance of Mizoroki.
Of these two points, Carmen wrote:
Heck retired to Florida with his wife, Soccoro, in 1989 after having difficulty securing funding for his research. These days, he calls Soccoro’s native Philippines home. “I’m not doing any chemistry anymore, but I think I’ve done my share,” he says.
Asked what he thinks about the terms “Heck reaction” and “Mizoroki-Heck reaction,” he says he doesn’t have strong feelings either way. Mizoroki arrived at the reaction first, but “I wasn’t too far behind,” Heck says. Mizoroki didn’t follow up on the reaction or seem to recognize its value, he adds.
“Unfortunately, Mizoroki died quite young, before he could do much chemistry with palladium,” Heck says. “Maybe if he’d lived, it might’ve been called the Mizoroki reaction instead.”
So, just as we remember the late Patrick Steptoe for his work with Robert Edwards for this year’s prize in Physiology or Medicine, we should also remember the contributions of Dr. Mizoroki.
“A chemist today would be hard-pressed to find an area that this reaction hasn’t touched, from pharmaceuticals to materials and beyond,” wrote Carmen.
UPDATE: I also missed that Carmen gave us the backstory on her interview with Heck and search for Mizoroki on The Haystack blog back in May.
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