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Nobel in chemistry honors two scientists who build molecules

2 years 9 months 2 weeks ago Wednesday, October 06 2021 Oct 6, 2021 October 06, 2021 7:13 AM October 06, 2021 in News
Source: Nobel Prize Website
Nobel Prize Committee announces Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan as recipients of the Nobel Prize in chemistry on October 6, 2021.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - The Nobel Prize Committee this year recognized a pair of scientists whose work in the field of asymmetric organocatalysis has been compared to the efforts of an artist. 

In honoring chemists Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan with the Nobel Prize in chemistry the committee said, "Building molecules is a difficult art. Benjamin List and David MacMillan are awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 for their development of a precise new tool for molecular construction: organocatalysis."

"This has had a great impact on pharmaceutical research, and has made chemistry greener," the committee continued.

The two were announced as Nobel Prize recipients Wednesday morning in Stockholm, Sweden at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Their discoveries "initiated a totally new way of thinking for how to put together chemical molecules," said Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, a member of the chemistry Nobel committee.

German scientist List and US-based Scottish chemist MacMillan worked separately but will share the prize, which is the third Nobel award to be handed out this week.

The two researchers discovered a third kind of catalyst, which is a substance that causes a chemical reaction, called asymmetric organocatalysis. Before this discovery, researchers erronously thought there were only two types of catalysts: metals and enzymes.

The new catalysts have been used in a multitude of capacities over the past two decades. For example, they've been utilized in the creation of new pharmaceuticals and in the construction of molecules that capture light in solar cells.

The committee credited List and MacMillian's discovery as "bringing the greatest benefit to humankind."

List's reply to the accolades was rather humble, the scientist said, "I hope I live up to this recognition and continue discovering amazing things."

The first Nobel Prize was awarded on December 10 in 1901. It was created in honor of the Swedish chemist and engineer who created dynamite, Sir Alfred Nobel.

After Nobel died in 1896, his surviving family and colleagues found that his will and testament ordered the establishment of a foundation that would reward those who serve humanity.

Hence, the creation of the Nobel Prizes, which are now considered one of the most prestigious awards on the planet. 

Nobel Prizes are awarded in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace.

The prize ceremonies take place annually and each recipient, or 'laureate,' receives a gold medal, a diploma, and a monetary award.


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