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Richard F. Heck

AKA Richard Frederick Heck

Born: 1931
Birthplace: Springfield, MA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Palladium-catalyzed cross couplings

In 1971, American chemist Richard F. Heck discovered a previously unknown carbon-carbon bond-forming reaction mediated by palladium, which forms substituted olefins. In his report for the Journal of the American Chemistry Society, Heck wrote that "in spite of some limitations, the organic halideľolefinic substitution reaction should prove to be a useful synthetic reaction", which is something of an understatement. Now called the Heck reaction (or the Heck-Mizoroki reaction, for Tsutomu Mizoroki, who detailed a related reaction independently), this process set the framework for countless refinements and extensions to the catalytic organometallic bond forming processes for organic synthesis.

Heck pioneered his field of study virtually alone, with seven sole-author papers in the 1960s, one of which inspired Mizoroki's experiment. He was the first chemist to explain the co-catalyzed hydroformylation reaction, the mechanism which drives all catalytic organometallic reactions. He later taught at the University of Delaware, but retired with some frustration in 1989 when his funding was canceled and he was unable to obtain corporate or government grants to further his research. In retirement he was once quoted as saying, "I'm not doing any chemistry anymore, but I think I've done my share".

He won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, shared with Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki, for the development of palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic systems.

Wife: Soccoro

    University: BS Chemistry, University of California at Los Angeles (1952)
    University: MS Chemistry, University of California at Los Angeles (1954)
    Scholar: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (1954-55)
    Teacher: Chemistry, University of California at Los Angeles (1955-57)
    Professor: Willis Harrington Professor, University of Delaware (1971-89)

    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2010 (with Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki)
    Hercules Chemist (1957-71)
    American Chemical Society
    German Ancestry

Author of books:
Organotransition Metal Chemistry: A Mechanistic Approach (1974, chemistry)
Palladium Reagents in Organic Syntheses (1985, chemistry)


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