Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan. Illustration: Niklas Elmehed
What’s the name of the prize?
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021.
Who has won the prize?
Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan.
Benjamin List, born in 1968 in Frankfurt, Germany. He received his PhD in 1997 from Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany. He is currently director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany.
David W.C. MacMillan was born in 1968 in Bellshill, UK. He received his PhD in 1996 from the University of California, Irvine, USA. He is currently professor at Princeton University, US.
What have they won the prize for?
For the development of asymmetric organocatalysis.
The citation of the prize says:
“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.
“Many research areas and industries are dependent on chemists’ ability to construct molecules that can form elastic and durable materials, store energy in batteries or inhibit the progression of diseases. This work requires catalysts, which are substances that control and accelerate chemical reactions, without becoming part of the final product. For example, catalysts in cars transform toxic substances in exhaust fumes to harmless molecules. Our bodies also contain thousands of catalysts in the form of enzymes, which chisel out the molecules necessary for life.
“Catalysts are thus fundamental tools for chemists, but researchers long believed that there were, in principle, just two types of catalysts available: metals and enzymes. Benjamin List and David MacMillan are awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 because in 2000 they, independent of each other, developed a third type of catalysis. It is called asymmetric organocatalysis and builds upon small organic molecules.”
How are they splitting the prize?
Both laureates will share the prize equally.