One Heck of a prize

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Well, the dust from yesterday’s Nobel Prize is settling – in case you haven’t heard, it went to Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki “for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis”.

In case you haven’t also heard, there has been much rejoicing across the chemistry blogosphere. If you’ve only been reading more main-stream media and are somewhat confused what the prize has actually been given for – understandable given the uniformly fairly poor standard – try reading the coverage of Chemistry World, C&EN and Nature News. Fantastically vague reporting from the proper media include headlines like ‘Three professors share Nobel Prize in chemistry’ – informative!

I think the mood in the Nature Chemistry office reflected the general blogosphere: relief and happiness that (a) it was “real” chemistry and (b) extremely well-deserved. We’ll admit to being guilty of moaning in the past about the more biology-focused prizes – but can you blame us when people say things like “chemistry as an intellectual discipline looks, to the outsider at least, to have been largely solved” (from the Economist’s science and technology blog Babbage). This is the kind of image problem that prompted last year’s pre-Nobel editorial – what wins the Nobel prize matters because it’s pretty much the only glimpse of chemistry the wider world gets.

For our take on the prize, Laura wrote a Research Highlight. I think Stu summed it up best in the comment: “It’s the textbook example of a textbook reaction.”


Neil Withers (Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)