Heck, Richard Fred

Heck, Richard Fred,

1931–2015, American chemist, b. Springfield, Mass., Ph.D. Univ. of California, Los Angeles, 1954. Heck was a researcher at the Hercules Corporation in Wilmington, Del., from 1957 to 1971, when he joined the faculty at the Univ. of Delaware. He retired in 1989. In 2010, Heck won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Japanese chemists Ei-ichi NegishiNegishi, Ei-ichi,
1935–, Japanese chemist, Ph.D. Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1963. In 1966 he joined the faculty at Purdue Univ., and he spent most of his career there; from 1972 to 1979 he was a professor at Syracuse Univ.
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 and Akira SuzukiSuzuki, Akira,
1930–, Japanese chemist, Ph.D. Hokkaido Univ., Sapporo, 1959. He was a professor at Hokkaido from 1963 until his retirement in 1994. Since then, he has taught for short periods at Okayama Univ. of Science and Kurashiki Univ. of Science and the Arts.
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 for their research during the 1960s and 70s on palladium-catalyzed coupling reactions in organic synthesis. Heck's work, which improved on that of Japanese chemist Tsutomu Mizoroki, led to the discovery of the Heck, or Mizoroki-Heck, reaction, in which a palladium catalyst creates bonds between two carbon atom, facilitating the creation of complex organic molecules. Heck published his initial work in 1968 and refinements in the 1970s. The work of the three prize winners, carried out independently, laid the foundation for the synthesis of chemicals for applications in such diverse areas as pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, and advanced technological materials. Palladium-catalyzed cross coupling also led to breakthroughs in DNA sequencing. Heck's work was later adapted to make the cancer drug Taxol, steroids, and morphine among other compounds.