The Integrated Chemists of the Philippines mourns with the international chemistry community on the passing of Professor Richard Heck, Nobel Laureate for Chemistry. He passed away on October 9 at the age of 84.
Along with Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki, Prof. Heck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010 for his study on “palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis.” The Heck reaction, a chemical reaction of an unsaturated alkyl halide with an alkene in the presence of a base and a palladium catalyst to form a substituted alkene, was named after him. Heck’s discoveries laid the foundations for all modern cross-coupling reactions. These reactions have revolutionized organic chemistry and are used to make new organic materials, agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and enabling technologies that impact our daily lives in innumerable ways.
Professor Heck earned both his bachelor’s (1952) and doctor of philosophy (1954) degrees at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). After his post-doctoral stints at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich and back at UCLA, he took a position with the Hercules Corporation in Delaware, USA. In 1971, he went on to be a professor of chemistry at the University of Delaware.
He retired in 1989, and chose to reside in the Philippines with his Filipina wife, Socorro. He was the guest of honor at the 26th Philippine Chemistry Congress in Cebu City in 2011, where he had a special session with high school students. In 2012, he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from De La Salle University, and served as an adjunct professor of its Chemistry Department.
His remains lie in state at Imperial Chapel, La Funeraria Paz, Araneta Avenue, Quezon City and his interment will be on October 13 at 10:00 am. A necrological service/mass is scheduled on Monday, October 12, at 7:00 pm.
With reports from Reuters, De La Salle University, and University of Delaware.