Ei-ichi Negishi, Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry, Dies at 85


Ei-ichi Negishi, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2010 for creating methods now ubiquitous in the manufacture of prescription drugs, died on June 6 in Indianapolis. He was 85.

His dying, at a hospital, was introduced by Purdue University, the place Dr. Negishi was a professor for 4 many years. No trigger was given.

Dr. Negishi’s Nobel-winning analysis concerned chemical reactions that produce advanced natural compounds — massive carbon-based molecules used in medicine, plastics and plenty of different industrial supplies. Coaxing one carbon atom to bond to a different may be tough, however Dr. Negishi and different chemists discovered that metals, palladium in specific, might be used as middleman matchmakers.

In these reactions, two carbon-based molecules first follow the palladium. The palladium then disconnects from them, and the 2 carbons connect to one another, forming a brand new, bigger molecule. With the palladium working as a catalyst, the natural chemistry reactions can run at decrease temperatures with fewer steps, decreasing value and waste.

“It just allows this enormous selectivity,” mentioned James M. Tour, a professor of chemistry at Rice University in Houston, who was a graduate scholar of Dr. Negishi’s. “When you build molecules, you have to be able to work on one part of the molecule without destroying the other part.”

Chemists had found the magic of palladium earlier, and in 1977 Dr. Negishi constructed on that work through the use of zinc compounds to ease the mingling of carbon atoms on palladium. That made the method extra relevant to a wider vary of reactions.

“Without organic compounds, none of us can live,” Dr. Negishi mentioned in a information convention on the day the Nobel was introduced. “One of our major dream goals is to be able to synthesize any organic compounds in high yield, high efficiency.”

He gave as an analogy the creating of elaborate Lego formations. “That is a pretty accurate description of what we have been trying to do,” he mentioned.

Traditionally, natural chemists largely restricted themselves to molecules utilizing the ten or so parts discovered in natural compounds. Dr. Negishi mentioned that he and others had “realized that we should make sure of the entire periodic table.”

By increasing to different parts like palladium, chemists in impact elevated the variety of Lego items they might use, and that opened new avenues to synthesize the molecules they wished to make.

Dr. Negishi shared the 2010 Nobel in Chemistry with Richard F. Heck of the University of Delaware and Akira Suzuki of Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan.

Unlike many Nobelists who say they by no means anticipated to obtain the very best honor in the science world, Dr. Negishi mentioned it was “not a major surprise” to obtain an early morning cellphone name on Oct. 6, 2010, from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which administers the Nobels.

Dr. Tour mentioned Dr. Negishi had pursued analysis that he thought was Nobel-worthy. “He dreamed about it,” Dr. Tour mentioned. “He often discussed the Nobel Prize. And what would have to be done to win this.”

To that finish, Dr. Negishi might be relentless. “He was extremely exacting,” Dr. Tour mentioned. “He had no trouble pushing people to the point of tears at a blackboard.”

Dr. Tour mentioned Dr. Negishi additionally had a beneficiant aspect. “If anybody would walk up to his office door and knock, his door was always open,” Dr. Tour mentioned. “And you’d usually sit down for much longer than you bargained for, because he analyzed the whole project you’re working on, not just the question that you’re asking.”

Ei-ichi Negishi was born on July 14, 1935, in Changchun, China, then referred to as Hsinking, the capital of the Japanese-controlled a part of the nation, in the northeast. His household moved to Tokyo after (*85*) War II after which to a rural space outdoors Tokyo, the place his father farmed and his mom took care of the household’s 5 kids.

After graduating from the University of Tokyo in 1958 with a bachelor of engineering diploma, he labored as a analysis chemist at the Iwakuni Research Laboratories in Japan. By his account, he realized that he wanted extra educational coaching however felt that graduate college was financially out of attain.

His fortunes modified in 1960, nonetheless, when he received a Fulbright scholarship to attend the University of Pennsylvania. After ending his doctorate in 1963, he joined the laboratory of Herbert C. Brown at Purdue. Dr. Brown turned the primary Purdue college member to win a Nobel Prize, in 2004; Dr. Negishi was the second.

“In terms of research, he is my only mentor” Dr. Negishi mentioned of Dr. Brown in an interview after the Nobel announcement. “I have had other professors, but he taught me just about everything as to how to do research.”

Dr. Negishi moved to Syracuse University as an assistant professor in 1972 and returned to Purdue in 1979 as a professor. He retired in 2019, having been an writer of greater than 400 scientific papers.

In 2010, Dr. Negishi, who remained a Japanese citizen, obtained the Order of Culture from Emperor Akihito. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014.

Survivors embrace two daughters, 4 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. His spouse of 58 years, Sumire, died in 2018.

“When he got his Nobel Prize, he became nicer,” Dr. Tour mentioned. “He’d take his wallet out of his pocket, and protruding from his wallet was the Nobel Prize medallion.”

Dr. Tour mentioned Dr. Negishi would cross the medal round and wouldn’t thoughts if somebody dropped it. “You could see the ding in one side of it,” Dr. Tour mentioned. “And he just laughed about it.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here