If you prefer a more graphical display, see http://cen.acs.org/nobels.html
Text in black is taken directly from Encyclopædia Britannica’s biographies (see links) or other sources listed at the bottom of the page.
The descriptions in green are for work that is relevant to high school chemistry.
|1901||Hoff van’t, Jacobus||Netherlands||for work on rates of
reaction, chemical equilibrium, and osmotic pressure
|1902||Fischer, Emil||Germany||Fischer’s research on the
purines was instituted in 1881. He determined the structures of uric
acid, xanthine, caffeine, theobromine, and other related compounds,
and he showed that they are all derivatives of a single compound, a
nitrogenous base that he named purine.Despite major complications because of stereochemical
relations, Fischer was able to use these derivatives to determine
the molecular structures of fructose, glucose, and many other
sugars, and he was able to verify his results by synthesizing those
compounds. He also showed how to distinguish the formulas of the 16
stereoisometric glucoses. In the course of his stereochemical
research, Fischer discovered that there are two series of sugars,
the D sugars and the L sugars, that are mirror images of each other.
His study of sugars led him to investigate the reactions and
substances involved in fermentation, and, in his investigations of
how enzymes break down sugars, Fischer laid the foundations for
|1903||Arrhenius, Svante||Sweden||theory of
electrolytic dissociation.Arrhenius not only proposed that acids and bases break up into ions,
but he used ions to explain neutralization reactions and electrical
conductivity of solutions.
|1904||Ramsay, Sir William||U.K.||discovery of inert
gas elements and their places in the periodic system.Through fractional distillation and spectral analysis of liquid
argon from liquid air, Ramsay discovered neon, krypton and xenon.
|1905||Baeyer, Adolf von||Germany||Notable among Baeyer’s many achievements were
the discovery of the phthalein dyes(including indigo) and his
investigations of uric acid derivatives, polyacetylenes, and oxonium
salts. One derivative of uric acid that he discovered was barbituric
acid, the parent compound of the sedative-hypnotic drugs known as
Baeyer proposed a “strain” (Spannung) theory
|1906||Moissan, Henri||France||isolation of
fluorine; introduction of Moissan furnaceBy electrolysis of HF, Moissan isolated
fluorine and remarked that it could attack even cold silicon,
burning it with occasional sparks.
|1907||Buchner, Eduard||Germany||for demonstrating that the fermentation of
carbohydrates results from the action of different enzymes contained
in yeast and not the yeast cell itself. He showed that an enzyme,
zymase, can be extracted from yeast cells and that it causes sugar
to break up into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
|1908||Rutherford, Ernest||U.K.||investigations into the disintegration of
elements and the chemistry of radioactive substancesHis research with alpha particles led him
to propose a model of the atom in which most of the atom’s mass was
concentrated in a small positive nucleus.
|1909||Ostwald, Wilhelm||Germany||pioneer work on catalysis, chemical
equilibrium, and reaction velocitiesOstwald showed that acidic ions that
play a role in catalysis are also released by the reactants
themselves, thus compensating for the consumption of the acid added
|1911||Curie, Marie||France||discovery of radium and polonium; isolation of
|1912||Grignard, Victor||France||discovery of the Grignard reagents, consisting
of organometallic compounds in which a negatively polarized carbon
can add itself and its adjacent atoms to an organic compound
containing an electrophilic site
|Sabatier, Paul||France||for his method of hydrogenating organic
compounds in the presence of finely disintegrated metals. In 1897 he
reduced ethylene to ethane with hydrogen using nickel as a catalyst
and eventually extended his approach to wide variety of organic
|1913||Werner, Alfred||Switzerland||for coordination theory, which permitted a
simple classification of inorganic compounds and extended the
concept of isomerism
|1914||Richards, Theodore William||U.S.||accurate determination of the atomic weights of
numerous elementsRichards improved the determination of
atomic masses; by modern standards, they were accurate to three
decimal places, paving the way for the discovery of isotopes.
|1915||Willstätter, Richard||Germany||pioneer researches in plant pigments,
|1916-17||No Prizes awarded|
|1918||Haber, Fritz||Germany||In the first decade of the 20th century the
rapidly increasing demand for nitrogen fertilizer greatly exceeded
the supply, which still came mainly from Chilean nitrate. The
problem of utilizing atmospheric nitrogen for this purpose had
become of worldwide concern. (See nitrogen
fixation.) Haber developed a method for synthesizing ammonia
from nitrogen and hydrogen, and by 1909 he had established
conditions for the large-scale synthesis of ammonia. The process was
handed over to Carl Bosch of Badische Anilin- & Soda-Fabrik for
industrial development, leading to the Haber-Bosch
|1919||No Prize awarded|
|1920||Nernst, Walther Hermann||Germany||work in thermochemistryHis third law states that at absolute
zero (0 K) the entropy of every substance is zero.
|1921||Soddy, Frederick||U.K.||chemistry of
radioactive substances; occurrence and nature of isotopes
|1922||Aston, Francis William||U.K.||work with mass spectrograph; whole-number ruleBy using a mass spectograph, which
separates particles of different masses by a magnetic field, he
showed that most elements were a mixture of different isotopes. He calso came up with the whole number
rule, which states that the mass of a specific isotope is a whole
|1923||Pregl, Fritz||Austria||method of microanalysis of organic substances|
|1925||Zsigmondy, Richard||Austria||elucidation of the heterogeneous nature of
|1926||Svedberg, Theodor H.E.||Sweden||for his studies in the chemistry of colloids
and for his invention of the ultracentrifuge, which he used to
determine precisely the molecular weights of highly complex proteins
such as hemoglobin
|1927||Wieland, Heinrich Otto||Germany||for his determination of the molecular
structure of bile acids.
|1928||Windaus, Adolf||Germany||Windaus discovered 7-dehydrocholesterol , which
is the chemical precursor of vitamin D, and he showed that it is a
He discovered that it is converted into the vitamin when
|1929||Euler-Chelpin, Hans von||Sweden||
|Harden, Sir Arthur||U.K.||His more than 20 years of study of the fermentation
of sugar advanced knowledge of intermediary metabolic processes in
all living forms. He also pioneered in studies of bacterial enzymes
|1930||Fischer, Hans||Germany||Hemin is a crystalline product of hemoglobin.
By splitting in half the molecule of bilirubin, a bile pigment
related to hemin, Fischer obtained a new acid in which a section of
the hemin molecule was still intact. Fischer identified its
structure and found it to be related to pyrrole.
This made possible
|1931||Bergius, Friedrich||Germany||invention and development of chemical
high-pressure methods. These studies led to his work on converting
coal into liquid hydrocarbons.
|1932||Langmuir, Irving||U.S.||discoveries and investigations in surface
chemistry. Langmuir’s studies of molecular films on solid and liquid
surfaces opened new fields in colloid research and biochemistry.
|1934||Urey, Harold C.||U.S.||discovery of hydrogen’s
heavy isotope deuterium
|1935||Joliot-Curie, Frédéric||France||synthesis of new radioactive elements|
|1936||Debye, Peter||Netherlands||for their work on dipole moments and diffraction of X
rays and electrons in gasesDebye helped reveal the nature of polar
molecules,which have an overall positive and negative parts to them.
He did this by studying their alignments in magnetic fields.
|1937||Haworth, Sir Norman||U.K.||In 1934, with the British chemist Sir Edmund
Hirst, he succeeded in synthesizing vitamin C, the first to be
This accomplishment not only constituted a
|Karrer, Paul||Switzerland||Karrer’s best-known researches were on plant
pigments, particularly the yellow ones (carotenoids), which are
related to the pigment in carrots. He not only elucidated the
chemical structure of the carotenoids but also showed that some of
these substances are transformed into vitamin A in the animal body.
In 1930 he established the correct formula for carotene–the chief
precursor of vitamin A–and this was the first time that the
chemical structure of a vitamin had been established. Shortly
afterward he was able to determine the constitution of vitamin A
|1938||Kuhn, Richard (declined)||Germany||Kuhn investigated the structure of compounds
related to the
carotenoids, the fat-soluble
yellow colouring agents widely distributed in nature. He discovered
at least eight carotenoids, prepared them in pure form, and
determined their constitution. He discovered that one was necessary
for the fertilization of certain algae. Simultaneously with Paul
Karrer he announced the constitution of vitamin B2 and
was the first to isolate a gram of it. With coworkers he also
isolated vitamin B6.
|1939||Butenandt, Adolf (declined)||Germany||In 1929, almost simultaneously
with Edward A. Doisy in the United States, Butenandt isolated estrone,
one of the hormones responsible for sexual development and function
in females. In 1931 he isolated and identified androsterone, a male
sex hormone, and in 1934, the hormone progesterone, which plays an
important part in the female reproductive cycle. It was now clear
that sex hormones are closely related to steroids, and after Ruzicka
showed that cholesterol could be transformed into androsterone, he
and Butenandt were able to synthesize both progesterone and the male
hormone testosterone. Butenandt’s investigations made possible the
eventual synthesis of cortisone and other steroids and led to the
development of birth control pills.
|1943||Hevesy, Georg Charles von||Hungary||for the use of isotopes as tracers in chemical research|
|1944||Hahn, Otto||Germany||for the discovery of the fission of heavy nuclei|
|1945||Virtanen, Artturi Ilmari||Finland||Knowing that the fermentation product, lactic
acid, increases the acidity of the silage to a point at which
destructive fermentation ceases, he developed a procedure (known by
his initials, AIV) for adding dilute hydrochloric or sulfuric acid
to newly stored silage, thereby increasing the acidity of the fodder
beyond that point. In a series of experiments (1928-29), he showed
that acid treatment has no adverse effect on the nutritive value and
edibility of the fodder and of products derived from animals fed the
|1946||Northrop, John Howard||U.S.||preparation of enzymes and virus proteins in
pure form. He crystallized pepsin, a digestive enzyme present in
gastric juice, in 1930 and found that it is a protein, thus
resolving the dispute over what enzymes are. Using the same chemical
methods, he isolated in 1938 the first bacterial virus (bacteriophage),
which he proved to be a nucleoprotein. Northrop also helped isolate
and prepare in crystalline form pepsin’s inactive precursor
pepsinogen (which is converted to the active enzyme through a
reaction with hydrochloric acid in the stomach); the pancreatic
digestive enzymes trypsin and chymotrypsin; and their inactive
precursors trypsinogen and chymotrypsinogen.
|Stanley, Wendell Meredith||U.S.||for the preparation of enzymes and virus proteins in
pure form. In 1935 Stanley crystallized tobacco mosaic virus (TMV,
the causative agent of a plant disease) and showed that it is a
rod-shaped aggregate of protein and nucleic acid molecules. His work
enabled other scientists, utilizing methods of X-ray diffraction, to
ascertain unambiguously the precise molecular structures and the
modes of propagation of several viruses.
|Sumner, James Batcheller||U.S.||After crystallizing the enzyme urease in 1926,
Sumner went to Stockholm to study with Hans von
Euler-Chelpin and Theodor
(The) Svedberg. He crystallized the enzyme catalase in 1937 and
also contributed to the purification of several other enzymes.
|1947||Robinson, Sir Robert||U.K.||His most important studies were undertaken on
alkaloids; these are complex, naturally occurring,
nitrogen-containing compounds that can have profound biochemical
effects on living things. Robinson’s efforts to determine the
chemical reactions that form alkaloids in plants led him to discover
the structures of morphine (1925) and
|1948||Tiselius, Arne||Sweden||for their researches in electrophoresis and adsorption
analysis. He used electrophoretic methods to separate the chemically
similar proteins of blood serum
|1949||Giauque, William Francis||U.S.||for revealing the behaviour of substances at extremely low
temperatures. His research confirmed the third law of
thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of ordered solids
reaches zero at the absolute zero of temperature. In the course of
his low-temperature studies of oxygen, Giauque discovered with
Herrick L. Johnston the oxygen isotopes of mass 17 and 18.
|1950||Alder, Kurt||West Germany||for the discovery and development of diene synthesis.
The diene synthesis consists essentially of the linking of a diene,
which is a substance containing two alternate double bonds, to a
dienophile, which is a compound containing a pair of doubly or
triply bonded carbon atoms. The diene and dienophile readily react
to form a six-membered ring compound. Similar reactions had been
recorded by others, but it was Alder and Diels who provided the
first experimental proof of the nature of the reaction and
demonstrated its application to the synthesis of a wide range of
ring compounds. Diene synthesis can be effected without the use of
powerful chemical reagents. It has been used to synthesize such
complex molecules as morphine, reserpine, cortisone and other
steroids, the insecticides dieldrin and aldrin, and other alkaloids
|Diels, Otto Paul Hermann||West Germany|
|1951||McMillan, Edwin Mattison||U.S.||for the discovery of and research on transuranium
|Seaborg, Glenn T.||U.S.|
|1952||Martin, A.J.P.||U.K.||for the development of partition chromatography. Martin
and Synge invented paper partition chromotography in 1944. Partition
chromatography depends on the partition, or distribution, of each
component of a mixture between two immiscible liquids. One of the
liquids is held stationary by strong adsorption on the surface of a
finely divided solid while the other flows through the interstices
of the solid particles. Any substance that preferentially dissolves
in the mobile liquid is more rapidly transported in the direction of
flow than is a substance that has greater affinity for the
|1953||Staudinger, Hermann||West Germany||for their work on macromolecules; devised a relationship
between viscosity and molecular weight
|1954||Pauling, Linus||U.S.||study of the nature of the chemical bond;
introduced hybridization. In order to account for the equivalency of
the four bonds around the carbon atom, he introduced the concept of
hybrid orbitals, in which electron orbits are moved from their
original positions by mutual repulsion. Pauling also recognized the
presence of hybrid orbitals in the coordination of ions or groups of
ions in a definite geometric arrangement about a central ion. His
theory of directed (positive and negative) valence (the capacity of
an atom to combine with other atoms) was an outgrowth of his early
work, as was the concept of the partial ionic character of covalent
bonds–i.e., atoms sharing electrons. His empirical concept
of electronegativity, the power of
attraction for electrons in a covalent bond, was useful in further
clarification of these problems. In the case of compounds whose
molecules cannot be represented unambiguously by a single structure,
he introduced the concept of resonance hybrids whereby the true
structure of the molecule is regarded as an intermediate state
between two or more depictable structures. The resonance theory came
under heavy but unsuccessful attack in the U.S.S.R. in 1951 when
doctrinaire scientists of the Communist Party argued that it
conflicted with dialectical materialist principles.
|1955||du Vigneaud, Vincent||U.S.||for the isolation and synthesis of two
pituitary hormones: vasopressin, which acts on the muscles of the
blood vessels to cause elevation of blood pressure; and oxytocin,
the principal agent causing contraction of the uterus and secretion
|1956||Hinshelwood, Sir Cyril Norman||U.K.||for their work on the kinetics of chemical reactionsThey studied chain mechanisms (a series of
in between steps between the reactant and product in a reaction)
involving free radicals (atoms or molecules with an unpaired
|Semyonov, Nikolay Nikolayevich||U.S.S.R.|
|1957||Todd (of Trumpington), Alexander Robertus Todd, Baron||U.K.||While at Manchester he began work on
nucleosides, compounds that form the structural units of nucleic
acids (DNA and RNA). In 1949 he synthesized a related substance,
adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is vital to energy utilization
in living organisms.
He synthesized two other important compounds, flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) in 1949 and uridine triphosphate
|1958||Sanger, Frederick||U.K.||for the determination of the structure of the insulin
|1959||Heyrovský, Jaroslav||Czech.||for the discovery and development of polarography, an
instrumental method of chemical analysis used for qualitative and
quantitative determinations of reducible or oxidizable substances.
Heyrovský’s instrument measures the current that flows when a
predetermined potential is applied to two electrodes immersed in the
solution to be analyzed.
|1960||Libby, Willard Frank||U.S.||In 1946 he showed that tritium, the heaviest
isotope of hydrogen, was produced by cosmic radiation. The following
year he and his students developed the carbon-14 dating technique.
This technique is used to date material derived from former living
organisms as old as 50,000 years. It measures small amounts of
radioactivity from the carbon-14 in organic or carbon-containing
materials and is able to identify older objects as those having less
|1961||Calvin, Melvin||U.S.||for the study of chemical steps that take place during
photosynthesis. Calvin began his work on photosynthesis in the
mid-1940s. For his studies he developed a system of using the
radioactive isotope carbon-14 as a tracer element in the green alga Chlorella. By arresting the plant’s growth at various stages
and measuring the tiny amounts of radioactive compounds present,
Calvin was able to identify most of the reactions involved in the
intermediate steps of photosynthesis.
|1962||Kendrew, Sir John Cowdery||U.K.||He determined the structure of the muscle
protein myoglobin, which stores oxygen and gives it to the muscle cells
|Perutz, Max Ferdinand||U.K.||For his X-ray diffraction analysis of the structure
of hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to
the tissues via blood cells.
|1963||Natta, Giulio||Italy||for thestructure and synthesis of polymers in the
field of plastics.In 1953 Natta
began intensive study of macromolecules. Using Ziegler’s catalysts,
he experimented with the polymerization of propylene and obtained
polypropylenes of highly regular molecular structure. The
properties–high strength, high melting points–of these polymers
soon proved very commercially important.
|Ziegler, Karl||West Germany||Ziegler’s most important discovery was made in 1953. He and a
student, E. Holzkamp, set out to repeat a preparation of higher
aluminum alkyls by heating ethylene and aluminum triethyl;
unexpectedly they obtained a complete conversion of the ethylene
monomer (CH2 = CH2) to the dimer, 1-butene (CH3CH2CH
= CH2). The explanation was found in the presence of a
trace of colloidal nickel derived from the catalyst used previously
in the autoclave for hydrogenation experiments. This led to the
discovery that substances made by mixing organometallic compounds
with compounds of certain heavy metals permitted the fast
polymerization of ethylene at atmospheric pressure to a linear
polymer of high molecular weight having valuable plastic properties
(other processes used high pressure and produced a partly branched
polymer). The catalyst derived from aluminum alkyl and titanium
tetrachloride proved especially useful. It formed the basis of
nearly all later developments in the production of long-chain
polymers of hydrocarbons from such olefins as ethylene and
butadiene; the resulting products came into widespread use as
fibres, rubbers, and films.
|1964||Hodgkin, Dorothy Mary Crowfoot||U.K.||for determining the structure of biochemical
compounds (such as vitamin B12)essential in combating pernicious anemia.
It would later take 10 years ( from 1961 to 1971) to synthesize this
|1965||Woodward, R.B.||U.S.||For the synthesis of compounds such as
including quinine (1944), cholesterol and cortisone (1951), and
vitamin B12 (1971)
|1966||Mulliken, Robert Sanderson||U.S.||for work concerning chemical bonds and the
electronic structure of molecules. Mulliken began working on his
theory of molecular structure in the 1920s. He theoretically
systematized the electron states of molecules in terms of molecular
orbitals. Departing from the idea that electron orbitals for atoms
are static and that atoms combine like building blocks to form
molecules, he proposed that, when molecules are formed, the atoms’
original electron configurations are changed into an overall
molecular configuration. Further extending his theory, he developed
a quantum-mechanical theory of the
behaviour of electron orbitals as different atoms merge to form
|1967||Eigen, Manfred||West Germany||for studies of extremely fast chemical reactions.
|Norrish, Ronald George Wreyford||U.K.||Norrish and Porter, who worked together between 1949
and 1965, used the new technique of flash photolysis to study the intermediate stages involved in
extremely rapid chemical reactions. In this technique, a gaseous
system in a state of equilibrium is subjected to an ultrashort burst
of light that causes photochemical reactions in the gas. A second
burst of light is then used to detect and record the changes taking
place in the gas before equilibrium is reestablished.
|Porter, Sir George||U.K.|
|1968||Onsager, Lars||U.S.||He applied the laws of thermodynamics to
systems that are not in equilibrium–i.e., to systems in
which differences in temperature, pressure, or other factors exist.
Onsager also was able to formulate a general mathematical expression
about the behaviour of nonreversible chemical processes that has
been described as the “fourth law of thermodynamics.”
|1969||Barton, Sir Derek H.R.||U.K.||for research that helped establish
conformational analysis (the study of the three-dimensional
geometric structure of complex molecules) as an essential part of
|1970||Leloir, Luis Federico||Argentina||for the discovery of sugar nucleotides and their role
in the biosynthesis of carbohydrates
|1971||Herzberg, Gerhard||Canada||research in the structure of molecules.Herzberg’s spectroscopic studies not only provided
experimental results of prime importance to physical chemistry and
quantum mechanics but also helped stimulate a resurgence of
investigations into the chemical reactions of gases. He devoted much
of his research to diatomic molecules, in particular the most common
ones–hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide. He discovered
the spectra of certain free radicals that are intermediate stages in
numerous chemical reactions, and he was the first to identify the
spectra of certain radicals in interstellar gas. Herzberg also
contributed much spectrographic information on the atmospheres of
the outer planets and the stars.
|1972||Anfinsen, Christian B.||U.S.||Anfinsen studied how the enzyme ribonuclease
breaks down the ribonucleic acid (RNA) present in food. Anfinsen was
able to ascertain how the ribonuclease molecule folds to form the
characteristic three-dimensional structure that is compatible with
|Stein, William H.||U.S.||Moore and Stein pioneered new methods of
chromatography for use in analyzing amino acids and small peptides
obtained by the hydrolysis of proteins. In 1958 they helped develop
the first automatic amino-acid analyzer, a machine that greatly
facilitated the analysis of the amino acid sequences of proteins. In
1959 Moore and Stein used the new machine to make the first
determination of the complete chemical structure of an enzyme,
|1973||Fischer, Ernst Otto||West Germany||organometallic chemistryFor his identification of a completely new way in which metals and
organic substances can combine. After studying the synthetic
substance ferrocene, he concluded that it consisted of two
five-sided carbon rings with a single iron atom sandwiched between
|Wilkinson, Sir Geoffrey||U.K.||Wilkinson went on to synthesize a number of other
“sandwich” compounds, or metallocenes, and his researches into this
previously unknown type of chemical structure earned him the Nobel
|1974||Flory, Paul J.||U.S.||for studies of long-chain molecules involved in
plastics. His research demonstrated the importance of understanding
the sizes and shapes of these flexible molecules in establishing
relationships between their chemical structures and their physical
|1975||Cornforth, Sir John Warcup||U.K.||for work in stereochemistry of
enzyme-catalyzed reactions such as the one involved in the synthesis
|Prelog, Vladimir||Switzerland||for work in stereochemistry of of alkaloids,
antibiotics, enzymes, and other natural compounds
|1976||Lipscomb, William Nunn, Jr.||U.S.||for the structure of boranes.By
developing X-ray techniques that later proved useful in many
chemical applications, Lipscomb and his associates were able to map
the molecular structures of numerous boranes and their derivatives.
Boranes are compounds of boron and hydrogen. The stability of
boranes could not be explained by traditional concepts of electron
bonding, in which each pair of atoms is linked by a pair of
electrons, because boranes lacked sufficient electrons. Lipscomb
showed how a pair of electrons could be shared by three atoms. His
theory successfully served to describe boranes and many other
|1977||Prigogine, Ilya||Belgium||for widening the scope of thermodynamics.
|1978||Mitchell, Peter Dennis||U.K.||for the formulation of a theory of energy transfer
processes in biological systems. Mitchell studied the mitochondrion,
the organelle that produces energy for the cell. ATP is made within
the mitochondrion by adding a phosphate group to ADP in a process
known as oxidative phosphorylation. Mitchell was able to determine
how the different enzymes involved in the conversion of ADP to ATP
are distributed within the membranes that partition the interior of
the mitochondrion. He showed how these enzymes’ arrangement
facilitates their use of hydrogen ions as an energy source in the
conversion of ADP to ATP
|1979||Brown, Herbert Charles||U.S.||introduction of compounds of boron and
phosphorus in the synthesis of organic substances
Brown’s work with borohydrides led to the
|Wittig, Georg||West Germany||In investigating reactions involving carbanions,
negatively charged organic species, Wittig discovered a class of
organic phosphorus compounds called ylides that mediate a particular
type of reaction that became known as the Wittig reaction. This
reaction proved of great value in the synthesis of complex organic
compounds such as vitamins A and D2, prostaglandins, and
|1980||Berg, Paul||U.S.||first preparation of a
|Gilbert, Walter||U.S.||for the development of chemical and biological analyses
of DNA structure. In the 1970s Gilbert developed a widely used
technique of using gel electrophoresis to read the nucleotide
sequences of DNA segments. The same method was developed
independently by Sanger
|Sanger, Frederick||U.K.||By 1977 he had elucidated the sequences of
nucleotides in the DNA molecule of a bacteriophage (a virus that
infects bacteria). This phage, phi-X 174, was the first organism to
have its entire nucleotide sequence determined. To achieve this
feat, Sanger again developed new laboratory techniques, this time
for splitting DNA into fragments whose base sequences can then be
|1981||Fukui ,Kenichi||Japan||for the orbital symmetry interpretation of chemical
reactions. Hoffmann and Woodward discovered that many reactions
involving the formation or breaking of rings of atoms take courses
that depend on an identifiable symmetry in the mathematical
descriptions of the molecular orbitals that undergo the most change.
Their theory, expressed in a set of statements now called the
Woodward-Hoffmann rules, accounts for the failure of certain cyclic
compounds to form from apparently appropriate starting materials,
though others are readily produced; it also clarifies the geometric
arrangement of the atoms in the products formed when the rings in
cyclic compounds are broken.
|1982||Klug, Aaron||U.K.||for investigations of the three-dimensional
structure of viruses and other particles that are combinations of
nucleic acids and proteins, and for the development of
crystallographic electron microscopy.
|1983||Taube, Henry||U.S.(Canadian born)||for his extensive research into the properties
and reactions of dissolved inorganic substances, particularly
oxidation-reduction processes involving the ions of metallic
|1984||Merrifield, Bruce||U.S.||for the development of a method of polypeptide
|1985||Hauptman, Herbert A.||U.S.||Hauptman and Karle devised mathematical
equations to extract phase information from the intensity of spots
resulting from the diffraction of X rays deflected off crystals.
Their equations made it possible to pinpoint the location of atoms
within the crystal’s molecules based upon an analysis of the
intensity of the spots.
|1986||Herschbach, Dudley R.||U.S.||for the development of methods for analyzing basic
|Lee, Yuan T.||U.S.|
|Polanyi, John C.||Canada|
|1987||Pedersen, Charles J.||U.S.||for the discovery of crown ethers, organic molecules that can solvate metal ions,
which normally do not dissolve in organic solvents.
|Lehn, Jean-Marie||France||Formed cryptands from crown ethers by
replacing O’s with N’s
|Cram, Donald J.||U.S.||Formed cryptates, which selectively recognized
and bound specific guest molecules and ions.
|1988||Deisenhofer, Johann||West Germany||for the discovery of structure of proteins needed in
|Huber, Robert||West Germany|
|Michel, Hartmut||West Germany|
(born in Canada)
|for the discovery of certain basic properties of RNA.The old belief was that enzymatic activity–the
triggering and acceleration of vital chemical reactions within
living cells–was the exclusive domain of protein molecules.
Altman’s and Cech’s revolutionary discovery was that RNA,
traditionally thought to be simply a passive carrier of genetic
codes between different parts of the living cell, could also take on
active enzymatic functions. This new knowledge opened up new fields
of scientific research and biotechnology and caused scientists to
rethink old theories of how cells function.
|Cech, Thomas Robert||U.S.|
|1990||Corey, Elias James||U.S.||for the development of retrosynthetic analysis for synthesis of complex molecules. This technique involves
breaking down an organic compound into several stages, ensuring that
each step is reversible so that the route can eventually be traced
backwards. With such an approach, Corey synthesied a wide variety of
terpenes and ginkgolide B (used in treating asthma). Link to synthesis.
|1991||Ernst, Richard R.||Switzerland||for improvements in nuclear magnetic resonance
spectroscopy.In 1966, working with an American
colleague, Ernst discovered that the sensitivity of NMR techniques
(hitherto limited to analysis of only a few nuclei) could be
dramatically increased by replacing the slow, sweeping radio waves
traditionally used in NMR spectroscopy with short, intense pulses.
His discovery enabled analysis of a great many more types of nuclei
and smaller amounts of materials.
|1992||Marcus, Rudolph A.||U.S.
|for an explanation of how electrons transfer between
molecules. In a series of papers
published between 1956 and 1965, he investigated the role of
surrounding solvent molecules in determining the rate of redox
reactions–oxidation and reduction reactions in which the reactants
exchange electrons–in solution. Marcus determined that subtle
changes occur in the molecular structure of the reactants and the
solvent molecules around them; these changes influence the ability
of electrons to move between the molecules. He further established
that the relationship between the driving force of an
electron-transfer reaction and the reaction’s rate is described by a
parabola. Thus, as more driving force is applied to a reaction, its
rate at first increases but then begins to decrease. This insight
aroused considerable skepticism until it was confirmed
experimentally in the 1980s.
|1993||Mullis, Kary B.||U.S.||inventors of techniques for gene study and
manipulation. Mullis developed PCR (polymerase chain reaction) in 1983.
Earlier methods for obtaining a specific sequence of DNA in
quantities sufficient for study were difficult, time-consuming,
and expensive. PCR uses four ingredients: the double-stranded
DNA segment to be copied, called the template DNA; two
oligonucleotide primers (short segments of single-stranded DNA,
each of which is complementary to a short sequence on one of the
strands of the template DNA); nucleotides, the chemical building
blocks that make up DNA; and a polymerase enzyme that copies the
template DNA by joining the free nucleotides in the correct
order. These ingredients are heated, causing the template DNA to
separate into two strands. The mixture is cooled, allowing the
primers to attach themselves to the complementary sites on the
template strands. The polymerase is then able to begin copying
the template strands by adding nucleotides onto the end of the
primers, producing two molecules of double-stranded DNA.
Repeating this cycle increases the amount of DNA exponentially:
some 30 cycles, each lasting only a few minutes, will produce
more than a billion copies of the original DNA sequence. Before the advent of Smith’s method, the technique biochemical
researchers used to create genetic mutations was imprecise and
the haphazard approach made it a difficult and time-consuming
task. Smith remedied this situation by developing site-directed
mutagenesis, a technique that can be used to modify nucleotide
sequences at specific, desired locations within a gene. This had
made it possible for researchers to determine the role each
amino acid plays in protein structure and function. Aside from
its value to basic research, site-directed mutagenesis has many
applications in medicine, agriculture, and industry. For
example, it can be used to produce a protein variant that is
more stable, active, or useful than its natural counterpart.
|1994||Olah, George A.||U.S.||development of techniques to study hydrocarbon
molecules. Although theoretically recognized for several decades as a common
intermediate in many organic reactions, carbocations were unobservable because they were a short-lived, unstable class of
compound. Olah was able to successfully disassemble, examine, and
then recombine carbocations through the use of superacids and
|1995||Crutzen, Paul||Netherlands||explanation of processes that deplete Earth’s
ozone layer. Rowland and Molina theorized that CFC gases
combine with solar radiation and decompose in the stratosphere,
releasing atoms of chlorine and chlorine monoxide that are
individually able to destroy large numbers of ozone molecules. The
chlorine atoms were persistent because they were recycled once an
intermediate radical, ClO, reacted with atomic oxygen. Earlier, in 1970 Crutzen had discovered that
nonreactive nitrous oxide (N2O), produced naturally by
soil bacteria, rises into the stratosphere, where solar energy
splits it into two reactive compounds, NO and NO2. These
compounds, which remain active for some time, react catalytically
with ozone (O3).Mainly because
of their influence, production of CFC’s was eventually banned.
|Rowland, F. Sherwood||U.S.|
|1996||Curl, Robert F., Jr.||U.S.||discovery of new carbon compounds called
fullerenes, spherical clusters of carbon atoms
By crystallizing buckminsterfullerene at high pressures, other
|Kroto, Sir Harold W.||U.K.|
|Smalley, Richard E.||U.S.|
|1997||PAUL D. BOYER||U.S.||for their elucidation of the enzymatic
mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
|JOHN E. WALKER|
|JENS C. SKOU||Denmark||for the first discovery of an ion-transporting
enzyme, Na+, K+-ATPase.
|1998||JOHN A. POPLE||U.K.||for pioneering contributions in developing
methods(quantum chemistry) that can be used for theoretical studies
of molecular properties and related chemical processes.
|WALTER KOHN||U.S.(born Austria)|
|for his studies of the transition states of
chemical reactions using femtosecond spectroscopy.
|2000||ALAN J. HEEGER||U.S.||for the discovery and development of conductive
|ALAN G. MACDIARMID,||U.S.
(born New Zealand)
|2001||K. BARRY SHARPLESS||U.S.||for their work on chirally-catalysed oxidation
reactions. They developed molecules that can catalyze important
reactions so that only one of the two mirror image forms is
produced. The catalyst molecule, which itself is chiral, speeds up
the reaction without being consumed. Just one of these molecules can
produce millions of molecules of the desired mirror image form.(http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2001/sharpless.html)
|WILLIAM S. KNOWLES,||U.S.|
|and RYOJI NOYORI,||Japan|
|2002||JOHN B. FENN,||U.S.||for their development of soft desorption
ionization methods for mass spectrometric analyses of biological
|2003||PETER AGRE||U.S.||for advancing knowledge about cellular membrane
channels — passageways that control the movement of molecules across
cell membranes. More details.
|2005||YVES CHAUVIN||France||For developing metathesis reactions in which double bonds are broken and made
between carbon atoms in ways that cause atom groups to change places. This happens with the
assistance of special
catalyst molecules. Metathesis can be compared to a dance in which the couples change partners.
atomic-level explanation of how DNA is copied into messenger
RNA (transcription). His work may some day help stem-cell research.
|2007||Gerhard Ertl||Germany||Gerhard Ertl
is known for determining the detailed molecular mechanisms of the
catalytic synthesis of ammonia over iron (Haber
Bosch process) and the catalytic oxidation of carbon monoxide over palladium (catalytic
converter). During his research he discovered the important
phenomenon of oscillatory reactions on platinum surfaces and, using
photoelectron microscopy, was able to image for the first time, the
oscillating changes in surface structure and coverage that occur
during the reaction.
He always used new observation techniques
scientists were awarded the prize for their work on the green
fluorescent protein (GFP), which is visible under blue and
ultraviolet light.GFP, first isolated from
jellyfish, attaches itself to regulatory proteins in the cell and
allows them to be monitoredThe GFP gene can now be cloned and produced in different colours
to track different proteins simultaneously.GFP has been used to detect pollutants in the environment, in
glow-in-the-dark toys, and to study the growth of tumour cells.For more details see http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2008/info.pdf
|U.K||For studies of the structure and function of the ribosome Using Xray crystallography, the three recipients generated 3D models to show how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome. What a nice example of intermolecular bonding! These models are now used to develop new antibiotics.
Thomas A. Steitz
|Ada E. Yonath||Israel|
In quasicrystals, we find the fascinating mosaics of the Arabic world reproduced at the level of atoms: regular patterns that never repeat themselves. However, the configuration found in quasicrystals was considered impossible, and Dan Shechtman had to fight a fierce battle against established science. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011 has fundamentally altered how chemists conceive of solid matter.
On the morning of 8 April 1982, an image counter to the laws of nature appeared in Dan Shechtman’s electron microscope. In all solid matter, atoms were believed to be packed inside crystals in symmetrical patterns that were repeated periodically over and over again. For scientists, this repetition was required in order to obtain a crystal.
Shechtman’s image, however, showed that the atoms in his crystal were packed in a pattern that could not be repeated. Such a pattern was considered just as impossible as creating a football using only six-cornered polygons, when a sphere needs both five- and six-cornered polygons. His discovery was extremely controversial. In the course of defending his findings, he was asked to leave his research group. However, his battle eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter.
Aperiodic mosaics, such as those found in the medieval Islamic mosaics of the Alhambra Palace in Spain and the Darb-i Imam Shrine in Iran, have helped scientists understand what quasicrystals look like at the atomic level. In those mosaics, as in quasicrystals, the patterns are regular – they follow mathematical rules – but they never repeat themselves.
When scientists describe Shechtman’s quasicrystals, they use a concept that comes from mathematics and art: the golden ratio. This number had already caught the interest of mathematicians in Ancient Greece, as it often appeared in geometry. In quasicrystals, for instance, the ratio of various distances between atoms is related to the golden mean.
Following Shechtman’s discovery, scientists have produced other kinds of quasicrystals in the lab and discovered naturally occurring quasicrystals in mineral samples from a Russian river. A Swedish company has also found quasicrystals in a certain form of steel, where the crystals reinforce the material like armor. Scientists are currently experimenting with using quasicrystals in different products such as frying pans and diesel engines.
Your body is a fine-tuned system of interactions between billions of cells. Each cell has tiny receptors that enable it to sense its environment, so it can adapt to new situations. Robert Lefkowitz andBrian Kobilka are awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for groundbreaking discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family of such receptors: G-protein–coupled receptors.
For a long time, it remained a mystery how cells could sense their environment. Scientists knew that hormones such as adrenalin had powerful effects: increasing blood pressure and making the heart beat faster. They suspected that cell surfaces contained some kind of recipient for hormones. But what these receptors actually consisted of and how they worked remained obscured for most of the 20th Century.
Lefkowitz started to use radioactivity in 1968 in order to trace cells’ receptors. He attached an iodine isotope to various hormones, and thanks to the radiation, he managed to unveil several receptors, among those a receptor for adrenalin: β-adrenergic receptor. His team of researchers extracted the receptor from its hiding place in the cell wall and gained an initial understanding of how it works.
The team achieved its next big step during the 1980s. The newly recruited Kobilka accepted the challenge to isolate the gene that codes for the β-adrenergic receptor from the gigantic human genome. His creative approach allowed him to attain his goal. When the researchers analyzed the gene, they discovered that the receptor was similar to one in the eye that captures light. They realized that there is a whole family of receptors that look alike and function in the same manner.
Today this family is referred to as G-protein–coupled receptors. About a thousand genes code for such receptors, for example, for light, flavour, odour, adrenalin, histamine, dopamine and serotonin. About half of all medications achieve their effect through G-protein–coupled receptors.
The studies by Lefkowitz and Kobilka are crucial for understanding how G-protein–coupled receptors function. Furthermore, in 2011, Kobilka achieved another break-through; he and his research team captured an image of the β-adrenergic receptor at the exact moment that it is activated by a hormone and sends a signal into the cell. This image is a molecular masterpiece – the result of decades of research.
Chemists used to create models of molecules using plastic balls and sticks. Today, the modelling is carried out in computers. In the 1970s,Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel laid the foundation for the powerful programs that are used to understand and predict chemical processes. Computer models mirroring real life have become crucial for most advances made in chemistry today. Chemical reactions occur at lightning speed. In a fraction of a millisecond, electrons jump from one atomic to the other. Classical chemistry has a hard time keeping up; it is virtually impossible to experimentally map every little step in a chemical process. Aided by the methods now awarded with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, scientists let computers unveil chemical processes, such as a catalyst’s purification of exhaust fumes or the photosynthesis in green leaves. The work of Karplus, Levitt and Warshel is ground-breaking in that they managed to make Newton’s classical physics work side-by-side with the fundamentally different quantum physics. Previously, chemists had to choose to use either or. The strength of classical physics was that calculations were simple and could be used to model really large molecules. Its weakness, it offered no way to simulate chemical reactions. For that purpose, chemists instead had to use quantum physics. But such calculations required enormous computing power and could therefore only be carried out for small molecules.
This year’s Nobel Laureates in chemistry took the best from both worlds and devised methods that use both classical and quantum physics. For instance, in simulations of how a drug couples to its target protein in the body, the computer performs quantum theoretical calculations on those atoms in the target protein that interact with the drug. The rest of the large protein is simulated using less demanding classical physics.
Today the computer is just as important a tool for chemists as the test tube. Simulations are so realistic that they predict the outcome of traditional experiments.
For a long time optical microscopy was held back by a presumed limitation: that it would never obtain a better resolution than half the wavelength of light. Helped by fluorescent molecules the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2014 ingeniously circumvented this limitation. Their ground-breaking work has brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension.
In what has become known as nanoscopy, scientists visualize the pathways of individual molecules inside living cells. They can see how molecules create synapses between nerve cells in the brain; they can track proteins involved in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases as they aggregate; they follow individual proteins in fertilized eggs as these divide into embryos.
It was all but obvious that scientists should ever be able to study living cells in the tiniest molecular detail. In 1873, the microscopist Ernst Abbe stipulated a physical limit for the maximum resolution of traditional optical microscopy: it could never become better than 0.2 micrometres. Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Helland William E. Moerner are awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014 for having bypassed this limit. Due to their achievements the optical microscope can now peer into the nanoworld.
Two separate principles are rewarded. One enables the method stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy, developed by Stefan Hell in 2000. Two laser beams are utilized; one stimulates fluorescent molecules to glow, another cancels out all fluorescence except for that in a nanometre-sized volume. Scanning over the sample, nanometre for nanometre, yields an image with a resolution better than Abbe’s stipulated limit.
Eric Betzig and William Moerner, working separately, laid the foundation for the second method, single-molecule microscopy. The method relies upon the possibility to turn the fluorescence of individual molecules on and off. Scientists image the same area multiple times, letting just a few interspersed molecules glow each time. Superimposing these images yields a dense super-image resolved at the nanolevel. In 2006 Eric Betzig utilized this method for the first time.
Today, nanoscopy is used world-wide and new knowledge of greatest benefit to mankind is produced on a daily basis.
|*Nationality given is the citizenship of
recipient at the time award was made. Prizes may be withheld or not
awarded in years when no worthy recipient can be found or when the
world situation (e.g., World Wars I and II) prevents the
gathering of information needed to reach a decision.
Most of the
text was taken directly from http://www.britannica.com/nobel/table/chem.html and its biographical links
Photos from the
Hutton, K.B. Chemistry.
Copyright © 2015 Writing in green and
structures added by E. Uva. All Rights to cheer for Celtics Reserved.
Uva’s reference: Nobel Prize Winners in Chemistry. Eduard Farber.