Predictions for the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

October 5th, 2013

ChemBark MedallionHere it comes…the world of chemistry’s most exciting hour of fantastic prizes. Early this Wednesday morning, the winner(s) of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be announced. After a modest run of success in picking winners, I’ve had two straight rough years (with quasicrystals in 2011 and GPCRs in 2012). But, à la William Ernest Henley, my head is bloody but unbowed. It’s time to issue the annual list of odds against winning the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The candidates are sorted below by discovery/invention rather than by scientist. The treatment of candidate scientists can get complicated. Some are listed more than once. In cases where someone not listed could easily share in the prize for the associated discovery, a “+” is listed. In cases where one of the scientists listed could easily not share in that prize, a “–” is listed.  The odds are reported in “odds against” format. Remember, this list attempts to address who will win the prize this year, not who should win the prize. There’s a big difference.

Odds Against Winning the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Single-Molecule Spectroscopy & Application of Lasers, Moerner/Orrit/Zare/–, 7-1
Nuclear Hormone Signaling, Chambon/Evans/Jensen/O’Malley/–, 9-1
Bioinorganic Chemistry, Gray/Lippard/Holm/–, 9-1
The Field (everything not listed), 16-1
Techniques in DNA Synthesis, Caruthers/Hood/+, 19-1
Electrochemistry/Electron Transfer, Bard/Hush/Gray/–, 24-1
Lithium-Ion Batteries, Goodenough, 24-1
Protein Folding, Hartl/Horwich/+, 24-1
Polymer Science, Matyjaszewski/Rizzardo/+/– 24-1
Instrumentation/Techniques in Genomics, Venter/+, 49-1
Organic Electronics, Tang/+, 49-1
Molecular Studies of Gene Recognition, Ptashne, 49-1
Biological Membrane Vesicles, Rothman/Schekman/+, 49-1
Transmission Electron Aberration-Corrected Microscopy, Haider/Rose/Urban, 74-1
Chemically-Amplified Photoresists, Frechet/Willson, 74-1
Development of the Birth Control Pill, Djerassi, 74-1
Drug Delivery/Tissue Engineering, Langer/+, 99-1
Mechanistic Enzymology, Walsh/Stubbe/+/–, 99-1
Solar Cells, Grätzel/+, 99-1
Nanotechnology, Lieber/Whitesides/Alivisatos/Mirkin/Seeman/+/–, 99-1
Molecular Modeling and Assorted Applications, Karplus/Houk/Schleyer/Miller/+/–, 99-1
Applications of NMR Spectroscopy, Waugh/Pines/Roberts/McConnell/+/–, 99-1
Synthetic Biology, Elowitz/Leibler/Collins/+/–, 99-1
Protein Engineering, Arnold/Stemmer/+/–, 149-1
Development of Chemical Biology, Schultz/Schreiber/+, 149-1
Click Chemistry, Sharpless/+, 149-1
Quantum Dots, Brus/+, 149-1
Self-Assembly, Whitesides/Nuzzo/Stang/–, 149-1
Neurotransmitters, Scheller/Sudhof, 149-1
Pigments of Life, Battersby/+, 149-1
DNA Methylation, Cedar/Razin/+, 149-1
Small Regulatory RNA, Ambros/Baulcombe/Ruvkun, 149-1
Eukaryotic RNA Polymerases, Roeder, 149-1
Contributions to Theoretical Physical Chemistry, Rice/+, 149-1
Metal-Organic Frameworks, Yaghi/Ferey/Kitagawa/+/–, 149-1
Bio- & Organo-catalysis, List/Lerner/Barbas/+/–, 149-1
Alternative Nucleic Acid Motifs, Rich/+, 149-1
Hydrogen Maser, Kleppner/+, 149-1
Assorted Protein Work, Levitzki/Hunter/Pawson/+, 149-1
Novel Cancer Therapeutics, Ullrich/+, 149-1
Combinatorial Chemistry/DOS, Schreiber/+, 199-1
Leptin, Coleman/Friedman/Leong, 199-1
Zeolites, Flanigan/+, 199-1
Fluorocarbons, DuPont/Curran/–, 199-1
Dendrimers, Frechet/Tomalia/+, 199-1
Organic Synthesis, Evans/Danishefsky/Nicolaou/Ley/Trost/Stork/Wender/Kishi/+/–, 249-1
Mechanical Bonds and Applications, Sauvage/Stoddart/+, 299-1
Contributions to Bioorganic Chemistry, Breslow/Eschenmoser/+, 299-1
Understanding of Organic Stereochemistry, Mislow, 399-1
Molecular Machines, Stoddart/Tour/+/–, 499-1
Molecular Recognition, Dervan/+, 999-1
Astrochemistry, Oka, 999-1


1. This rundown is meant to approximate fair odds (without a built-in vig). In case you don’t know how this way of reporting odds works, the listed numbers (“m-n”) mean the associated entry has an expected probabilty to win of n/(m+n). Thus, 4-1 odds equates to a 20% expectation of winning. If your pick wins at 4-1 and you’ve bet $1, you get paid $5 ($4 + your $1 bet back) minus the house’s vig.

2. I’m not taking any wagers.

3. The (qualitative) criteria that went into assigning these odds were discussed in a previous post. Results from old predictions were also discussed in a previous post.

4. Let me know if anyone on this list is dead. (It’s important, because awards are not made posthumously.)

5. I think it’s too early for any nanotechnology prize to an academic. What is the crowning achievement of this field? It’s also too early for a solar energy prize (e.g., for DSSCs). The winners of this prize will be the scientists who solve the world’s consumable energy problem, or at least make a solid dent in it.

6. Pre-Nobels awarded in the last year. Robert Langer won the 2013 Wolf Prize in chemistry for drug delivery and biomaterials, and I’ve bumped with his odds. Langer could probably just as easily win the prize in medicine. Louis Brus won the 2013 Welch Award for quantum dots, and while I think the chances of quantum dots winning a prize given similar awards in physics, I’ve added Brus with long odds. Richard Scheller and Thomas Sudhof won the 2013 Lasker Award in Basic Research for their work on the molecular machinery and regulation of neurotransmitter release, and I’ve added them to the list. Stephen Lippard won the 2014 Priestley Medal and I’ve always said he could be grouped in with an award to bioinorganic work.

7. The last five prizes have gone biological (GPCRs), physical/materials (quasicrystals), organic (organopalladium chemistry), biological (ribosome), and biological (GFP). It has been a long time since something distinctly inorganic won, unless you are going to count organopalladium (2010) or Grubbs/Schrock (2005). Perhaps inorganic is due? Would they really give it to biologists again?

8. New additions based on suggestions: click chemistry, synthetic biology, protein engineering.

9. The Nobel Committee for chemistry this year is a pretty diverse group. I don’t think there is an obvious bias that would favor a prize going to one particular sub-discipline over another, but the overall character seems slightly weighted toward the physical side.

10. Who is my final prediction for the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (i.e., my one pick if someone were to put a gun to my head and say that a winning prediction was the only thing that would save my life)?  I’m going with the single-molecule spectroscopy and laser people. Last year was very biological, and I’d like to think the committee wouldn’t give two such prize in a row. These spectroscopists should eventually win.

Elsewhere (2013): Curious Wavefunction, In the Pipeline, Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates, C&EN Video Roundtable, PBS NOVA, Everyday Scientist.

59 Responses to “Predictions for the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry”

  1. anon Says:

    You have click/Sharpless listed twice.

  2. Paul Bracher Says:

    @anon: Thanks. Fixed it.

  3. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    Elwood Jensen (nuclear receptors) passed away last year.

  4. Paul Bracher Says:

    @CW: Thanks. Updated.

  5. Vilsmeier-Haack Says:

    I think Djerassi could just as well win a Nobel in medicine or physiology given the profound impact his work has had on the field of medicine (and less so chemistry) as well as population control (you should mention this). What a year it would be if an actual chemist won chemistry prize and Djerassi won the medicine and physiology prize!

  6. Paul Bracher Says:

    Unfortunately, more death notices are coming in by Twitter and e-mail:

    Pim Stemmer recently died of cancer. (h/t to @JustinGallivan)

    Tony Pawson died in August. (h/t to David P. for the e-mail)

  7. Special Guest Lecturer Says:

    Can’t have a MOF prize without Robson, despite Yaghi’s complete unwillingness to cite him.

    Note that zeolites, which are actually useful, have not been recognized.

  8. Matt Says:

    I hadn’t thought of it until I saw it on your list … but protein engineering might really be up for it soon. How many pilot plants have been set up recently to do enzyme-generated production of biofuels or others. There certainly is an application/economic impact there.

  9. Postdoc Says:

    I’m a bit shocked to not see Mark Ratner on your list.

  10. Unstable Isotope Says:

    I saw Langer speak last year, and dang is he impressive. I think he could easily win medicine.

    I think we’re due for a prize in inorganic chemistry.

  11. Pi* Says:

    biological molecular motors?

  12. Anonymousy Says:

    Speaking as an inorganic chemist, what about C-H activation (Bergman, Shilov, etc?) or Hydrogen complexes (Kubas?). Of course, those aren’t as widely recognized as other inorganic contributions. It would also be cool to see PCET get a prize, since Marcus already good one for electron transfer. It might go to any variety of people (Gray, Meyer, Mayer, etc), but I don’t think it’s as widely recognized as it should be.

    I could see it go to bioinorganic people (Like Lippard, Holm, or Gray, as you’ve stated).

    What about artificial photosynthesis/solar fuels? I think that its too young of an area, but hopefully will eventually get one.

    Ah well, we shall see in a few days!!

  13. Ash Says:

    Matt, good point. From what I know of protein engineering, it may be too early to recognize it since it’s still rather hard to get high yields, robustness and generality. Once this becomes possible I agree that the field deserves a prize. Speaking of protein engineering, I have always thought that Frances Arnold should be on any short list for her work in directed evolution.

  14. Anon Says:

    A MOF prize has to include Robson; he invented the field. Ferey’s contributions, while impressive, came later in the show and not as ground-breaking as the others.

  15. nord Says:

    “Last year was very biological, and I’d like to think the committee wouldn’t give two such prize in a row.”

    Oh how many of us would like to think they wouldn’t do such a thing, but…

  16. MJ Says:

    What about Ekimov alongside Brus for quantum dots? Not supremely familiar with the history here, but my recollection is that both were there at the initial discovery phase.

    Maybe we can hope for a physical/inorganic prize this year……

  17. Another chemist Says:

    I third the notion that Robson must be included for a MOF prize; Yaghi’s contributions, while popularizing the field, have in many cases not been terribly original (especially noting his propensity to rename and republish known materials, such as “ZIF-8″ or “MOF-199″, for reasons one can only speculate about).

    I also agree that zeolites are demonstrably more useful (for now) and have not received any prize. Keep in mind, though, that many zeolites are found in nature, and that Richard Barrer (who made tremendous advances early on in the field) passed away ~15 years ago. Who do you think would get a prize for zeolites if one were given for that field?

  18. Birdie Says:

    There are good zeolite scientists alive… Edith Flanigen, Lyne McCusker, Christian Baerlocher, Stacy Zones, Avelino Corma are all serious names. And the materials they discovered/characterized are useful. But is it sexy enough to be Nobel-worthy?

  19. Birdie Says:

    Also, regarding MOFs: Robson discovered the first materials of that type, they had no practical applicability. What makes them interesting is to find ways to synthesize families of such materials (Yaghi/O’Keefe/Eddaoudi), to give them interesting dynamic properties (Kitagawa/Ferey).

  20. Special Guest Lecturer Says:

    MOFs still don’t have “practical” applicability, just promise. One company has manufactured them and is financially worse off for having done so.

    If MOFs fulfill 25% of the hype surrounding them, a nobel would be warranted, and it would have to include Robson. In fact, there are enough pioneers in directional bonding and coordination polymers – Robson, Stang, and Fujita, that it would be possible to snub all who actually call them “MOFs”. Yaghi is high profile enough and has done a lot to popularize the field and so he’d probably get his share, but he was 4th to the dance at best. I don’t see Ferey or Kitagawa being a part of this hypothetical prize, even though they are certainly are big players in the field.

    My top “should win” remains Djerassi. I see at least three important prizes in polymers/materials coming (certainly before MOFs): controlled polymerization techniques/diblock polymer assembly, nanoparticles/quantum dots, and photolithography.

  21. chm Says:

    I would definitely add (stable) N-heterocyclic carbenes to the list. They have become important for organic and inorganic chemists. I guess Arduengo would be the candidate for the prize in this case.

  22. Bystander Says:

    What make MOFs MOFs are the permanent porosity and gas storage capability, which are Yaghi’s most significant intellectual contributions back in the 90s. There would not be a MOF field right now without that. Robson, as Birdie said, made MOF-like structures but they collapse after solvent removal. Robson neither conceptualized the field nor proved any porosity and applications.

  23. Nicolas Says:

    I might place my bet on Whitesides (listed already),

    i think that could be a nanotechnology year. The last was awarded to conducting polymers (2000).

  24. Anonymous Says:

    Surprised not to see native chemical ligation on your list, even at long odds. Any particular reason why?

  25. Paul Bracher Says:

    @Anonymous: The Kent ligation is one of my favorite reactions and very useful, but I don’t see it winning. Reactions that have won recently tended to create a wide/diverse class of reactions (e.g., the organopalladium couplings and olefin metathesis). I don’t think NCL has the same sort of scope.

  26. Paul Bracher Says:

    It was very nice of Medicine and Physiology to pick off two potential winners in chemistry this morning. Unfortunately, it looks like Richard Scheller is the latest victim of the Nobel’s Rule of Three.

  27. Umbisam Says:

    Steigerwald (Columbia Chem Department) should share with Brus. I believe Steigerwald was the first to synthesize quantum dots at Bell Labs and realized he had something interesting. IMHO, Yaghi publishes the same paper ad nauseum with small changes. MOFs are perhaps too expensive for any large scale application. Why not add Feringa to the Molecular Machines list?

  28. a_biologist Says:

    Shouldn’t optogenetics be on this list? Yes. it’s true it has not made it to the clinic and might never will, but as a technique, it has had as much impact as GFP.

  29. Scientists should be objective Says:

    Where is all the negativity/baseless rumour towards MOFs coming from?
    It is our obligation as scientists to say things in public based on evidence only.
    I am sure that Yaghi would not be (1) recruited to UC Berkeley as the highest ranked professor with an endowed chair, (2) among the most cited chemists in the world, (3) having published numerous high impact papers including two dozen Nature and Science papers, just because he published the same papers with small changes. Those nasty reviewers will certainly run you over if you tried to do that.
    Maybe people who said that scanned through the papers without really understanding them.

    Also, what is the proof of saying “MOFs still don’t have “practical” applicability, just promise. One company has manufactured them and is financially worse off for having done so.”? BASF just announced sales and earning increase. (

  30. Umbisam Says:

    No doubt that Yaghi has done high impact work. But after reading so many of his papers (which I have done in detail) it gets quite boring, for me at least. Nasty reviewers aren’t always present to run people over. Berkeley does pay a handsome salary. I wonder if it’s worth giving one person so much money but that’s a discussion perhaps best suited for a different topic.

  31. Scientists should be objective Says:

    Umbisam, the same thing can be said for anyone who concentrated on developing a specific area of chemistry after 20 years. As an example: (demonstration only and I think all those professors named are superb), you can always say:
    —”But after reading so many of “Whitesides’” papers (which I have done in detail) it gets quite boring, for me at least. I wonder if it’s worth giving “Whitesides” so much money but that’s a discussion perhaps best suited for a different topic.”
    —”But after reading so many of “Moerner’s” papers (which I have done in detail) it gets quite boring, for me at least. I wonder if it’s worth giving “Moerner” so much money but that’s a discussion perhaps best suited for a different topic.”
    —”But after reading so many of “Harry Gray’s” papers (which I have done in detail) it gets quite boring, for me at least. I wonder if it’s worth giving “Harry Gray” so much money but that’s a discussion perhaps best suited for a different topic.”
    —But after reading so many of “Lippard’s” papers (which I have done in detail) it gets quite boring, for me at least. I wonder if it’s worth giving “Lippard” so much money but that’s a discussion perhaps best suited for a different topic.”

    I wonder maybe you can give us an example of your own work (or your advisor’s work) to show that after 250 plus papers, you can make each one exciting!!! (or perhaps non-boring at least).

  32. Umbisam Says:

    I actually was going to use Whitesides as an example of someone who’s work does not get boring. :) But anyways, I’m sure there are plenty of people who find these MOF papers fascinating. I like the overall idea, but I find many of the papers to be repetitive.

  33. K Says:

    Pretty funny that Whitesides was used as an example of someone who does the same work over and over again…

  34. Scientists should be objective Says:

    Saying that papers published in the area of MOFs seem more or less the same to you is your own opinion and should be respected. We are all opinionated with our science and passion anyway. I am sure that everyone has the experience of feeling nauseated after reading some papers. Calling a scientist publishing the same papers with small changes is a personal attack on his or her scientific integrity. There is a huge difference between the two. Unless you have substantial evidence to back your claim, you should never blur out such a statement as if it was the truth.

    By the way, saying: ” Nasty reviewers aren’t always present to run people over.”— You have not published much, have you?

  35. Umbisam Says:

    Ok, this is my last post on MOFs. Although the comments I write are just my impressions, I realize that some things can be taken as hurtful and would be better left unsaid. I don’t want to insult anyone who is working hard so I will agree with you and say yes, i should not write of someone’s hard work as simply making small changes. I do not mean to attack anyone’s integrity here. The accomplishments speak for themselves. And heck, anyone trying to be successful in science should try to be like Yaghi. Let’s leave it at many of the papers seem more or less the same to me (and this is not limited to any particular PI).

    After reading many referee reports I can say that nasty reviewers are not always present. I don’t see the point in arguing this.

  36. Lowly assistant professor Says:

    I am enjoying the discussions on the merits of scientific research and impacts of various scientists on this post. However, I have one bone to pick:

    “I am sure that Yaghi would not be (1) recruited to UC Berkeley as the highest ranked professor with an endowed chair, (2) among the most cited chemists in the world, (3) having published numerous high impact papers including two dozen Nature and Science papers, just because he published the same papers with small changes.”

    While I would have agreed with the poster when I was a graduate student, I have seen to much of the (mostly self-)hype and publicity of scientists to ever take what they say about their contributions at face value. In other words, people who fail to cite older work and make claims about what they did first can drown out the opposition (and truth) if they have a big enough platform. I have seen this happen many times. You will usually find a few people in the field who know better, but not everyone can know the literature of every area thoroughly, so outspoken people who are not entirely truthful about past work in their area usually get away with it. As an example, I don’t work in MOF’s, but I had always associated Yaghi’s name with it, until I read some of the other comments and looked up R. Robson. (Thanks for the tip!)

    Likewise, having reviewed many papers, including those for high profile journals, I know that peer-review sometimes fails. PI’s sometimes steam-roll negative reviews to the editor to get their papers published. I have seen it first-hand, with papers I have reviewed for big-name professors that have had moderately serious scientific flaws, or conclusions not supported by the data. Also, there are many examples of papers which may feature similar quality of work, but are in different ‘status’ journals depending on how the paper ‘is sold’.

    I guess the point is the longer I am in science the more cynical I am about the normal parameters of ‘success’. Ultimately, I think as scientists is to try to evaluate people by looking at the primary data- the paper’s and the prior work themselves, and make their own opinions. In other words, someone’s position and/or Science/Nature papers is *not* an argument why someone is great; I’d want to hear about their actual contributions relative to others in their field.

  37. Dale Says:

    I think that Carl Lineberger should be on the list. Invented photoelectron spectroscopy, which basically changed the field of chemical dynamics.

  38. hoppi Says:

    Novel Cancer Therapeutics, Ullrich/+, 149-1 you may add J. Schlessinger or possibly Sawyers/Bruker (They may be stronger candidates for medicine).
    Possibly W. Hendrickson could be for MAD and other crystallography methods.No prize has been awarded for this since 1985.

  39. Anon Says:

    Well, the MOF discussion seems to have heated up a little. I think anyone who doubts Robson’s contributions should go back and read his 1990 JACS paper – it’s all there, years before anyone else came along. Yes, he didn’t demonstrate permanent porosity (the first to do this was Kitagawa I believe, and not Yaghi), but he outlined nearly all the principles of the field and demonstrated repeatably the formation of very open frameworks was easily achievable. While not discounting Yaghi (and Kitagawa’s) claims on the prize, a lot of Yaghi’s musings on the design of these materials were a blatant repackaging of Robson’s principles, with a very clever (and unnecessary) plastering of new jargon over the top of them. Yaghi, Kitagawa and others have achieved some spectacular results (and continue to do so), but the ideas were Robson’s.

    The other point I’d like to make is that the discounting of MOFs (or any other area) because there are currently no commercial applications seems to me to miss the point of the Nobel. It should be for revolutionary ideas and discoveries, changes in our way of thinking in a given area, and it’s hard to argue the impact of MOFs on today’s current chemical literature. Commercial applications did not seem to be a pre-requisite for Buckyballs, for the betting on the Higgs boson for the Physics prize, or any number of other prizes awarded. The literature prize doesn’t depend on book sales – if it did, Dan Brown would have won by now.

  40. Zoe Says:

    Kinoshita et al (1959) was in fact the first group to have developed MOFs. Most of the concept and design of the crystals from this paper have been conveniently “borrowed” by Robson without referencing it.

    Source: BULLETIN OF THE CHEMICAL SOCIETY OF JAPAN Volume: 32 Issue: 11 Pages: 1221-1226 DOI: 10.1246/bcsj.32.1221 Published: 1959

  41. bautz Says:

    “optogenetics …it has had as much impact as GFP”: no, not even close

  42. Anon Says:

    Well firstly, the 1959 paper makes an excellent argument for *no-one* getting a MOF Nobel. Secondly, Robson did reference this paper as soon as he became aware of it (as early as 1990), as he did of other earlier work such as e.g. Iwamoto’s. Thirdly, the 1959 paper is a densely packed interpenetrating structure while Robson’s was a single open framework structure, and was followed up by a series of other open framework materials. Fourthly, the 1959 paper (from memory – I don’t have it at hand at the moment) didn’t espouse the same design principles, generality of the approach, and potential applications of the design approach in anywhere the detail Robson did. And finally, if you read the papers of the groups that entered the field over the following early years of this field (including, initially, Yaghi as well) they all cite Robson’s initial groundbreaking work. It’s no coincidence that the field started to expand rapidly in 1995 (5-6 years after the initial Robson work, and while he was continuing to publish followup work in Nature, Angew Chem and elsewhere) rather than 1964.

    But why stop at 1959? Let’s go back to 1705 and Prussian Blue.

  43. Anon Says:

    Reading back through the MOF comments, which have become rather passionate, let me make one thing clear. I certainly think IF there is going to be a MOF prize, then Yaghi should share it. His body of work is nothing short of remarkable. But I also think that Kitagawa and Robson have equal claims, and it would be a gross injustice to split them.

  44. Zoe Says:

    Kitagawa did the porosity experiment (1997) in MOFs by forcing gas into the crystals at HIGH pressure. This did not prove permanent porosity because it simply implies that with enough pressure the gas can be pumped into MOFs.
    Yaghi did the reversible gas sorption isotherm measurement at low pressure in MOF-5 (1998), which proved that gas can be reversibly coming in and out of the MOF at normal temp and pressure, and that the MOF structure was robust and the porosity was permanent.

  45. Anon Says:

    So Robson designed and made the first open-framework MOFs, Kitagawa was the first to show gas sorption at high pressure (I think you’re selling this discovery short), and Yaghi was the first to show reversible gas sorption at low pressure. These are all important advances and milestones on the path to modern MOF chemistry, particularly in the context of each group’s followup work. Sounds to me like a good argument for sharing the prize three ways.

  46. The Iron Chemist Says:

    Of course the discussion about the origins of the MOF field will be made moot when the prize goes to another biologist.

  47. POM Chemist Says:

    On an unrelated (to MOFs) note, I’d really like to see the Bard/Hush/Gray prize this year, and I’d award it exactly like that, since Marcus has already won. It’s more a lifetime achievement award for Bard and Gray since their most important work was (arguably) in areas other than simple electron transfer, with Hush serving as the glue to hold the prize together conceptually (while also still deserving it for his contributions to ET theory). This is another prize where the clock for awarding it is ticking (Hush will be 90 next year, and Bard and Gray both about 80) and that may be enough to force the committee’s hand.

    I also think the odds on the Matyjaszewski/Rizzardo prize are a bit short; NMP wasn’t fully worked out when ATRP hit the scene in ’94/’95, and it still isn’t as versatile. Sawamoto had the best competing metal-catalyzed system at the time (based on a Ru complex) and that was a pale shadow of Matyjaszewski’s system. RAFT has done a lot to expand the controlled radical polymerization toolbox and give something orthogonal-ish to ATRP. I could see Frechet sharing this as a “routes to new polymers” prize for SCVP.

  48. AM Says:

    Ching W Tang and Steven Van Slyke for inventing OLEDs. Tang got the Wolf prize in 2011, and OLEDs have plenty of uses. You mentioned Tang for organic electronics already.

  49. yonemoto Says:

    I’ll keep plugging Stephanie Kwolek for Aramids, till the day she dies. Unfortunately, the obvious co-recipient, Sweeney, who invented the more politically correct Nomex, passed away in 2011.

  50. IBMer Says:

    The chemically amplified resist has fundamentally changed everything about our daily life. If there was a nobel prize for people who have created trillion dollar industries, Willson/Frechet/Ito (if Ito were around) would win it.

  51. chm Says:

    I agree with Paul that inorganic chemistry could get another chance. What about West, Brook, Yoshifuji for making the first heavy main group double bonded molecules?
    I also think George Sheldrick would be a great candidate.

  52. anonymous Says:

    i agree with CHM

  53. Another chemist Says:

    To begin, congratulations to the computational chemists!

    Now, to harp on MOFs (apologies to all the others who couldn’t care less about this silliness), the first example of accessible porosity in a MOF after Kitagawa’s (and the first to measure BET surface area in a MOF) was Williams’ discovery of HKUST-1 (Chui and Williams, Science, vol. 238, p 1148). That paper was submitted on Oct. 27, 1998, and published on Feb. 19, 1999. Yaghi’s MOF-5 paper (Li, Eddaoudi, O’Keefe, Yaghi; Nature, vol. 402, p 276) was only submitted on May 20, 1999, a few months after HKUST-1 was published. In all probability, Yaghi already had MOF-5 on hand by the time HKUST-1 was published, but it’s wrong to say that Yaghi was the first to demonstrate accessible porosity in these materials to the wider scientific community.

    Regarding Kitagawa’s contribution (Kondo, Yoshitomi, Seki, Matsuzaka, Kitagawa; Angewandte, v. 36, p 1725), the sorption experiments were carried out at room temperature. The adsorption of light gases at room temperature is typically very low at low pressure in any porous materials. The methane sorption data (N2 and O2 were the other two gases examined at room temperature) shows little hysteresis (though the fact that the desorption curve is slightly below the adsorption curve is a bit strange; I would personally attribute that to instrumental error such as a small leak), which suggests there is no significant structural change during sorption. Furthermore, the shape of the isotherm (type 1) is typical for adsorption in micropores. The evidence suggests to me that the gas was not “forced” into the crystals, but was indeed simply adsorbed to the interior of the framework pores, as Kitagawa points out in the paper. There have been plenty of high pressure gas adsorption experiments in MOFs, and the majority of them don’t undergo significant structural change to accommodate gas molecules. (Sure there are “breathing” MOFs and so on, but there’s hardly evidence for that in Kitagawa’s paper).

    Yaghi and collaborators certainly popularized the field to a greater extent than anyone else (based on citations, for lack of a better metric). His other contributions aside for the moment, he did not discover these materials nor was he the first to demonstrate their potential as porous materials.

    I’ll end with a quote from Robson from his second contribution to the field (Hoskins and Robson, JACS, vol 112, p 1547) – I think it’s really remarkable how much he predicted in just these few paragraphs, and it’s worth a read for those who aren’t familiar with the history here.

    “Lattices of this general type appeared to offer a number of features, listed below, of sufficient potential interest and utility to warrant attempting some exploratory syntheses:

    (a) Diffusion of various species, molecular or ionic, throughout the structure may be facile, and such materials may therefore have interesting molecular sieve properties and, with rods carrying charges, may show ion-exchange properties.

    (b) Despite Nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum it may be possible to devise rods with sufficient rigidity to support the existence of solids with relatively huge empty cavities. Materials combining good or even high thermal, chemical, and mechanical stability with unusually low density may thereby be afforded.

    (c) Relatively unimpeded migration of species throughout the lattice may allow chemical functionalization of the rods subsequent to the construction of the framework. The introduction of one or more catalytic centers per rod may thereby be straightforward. The very open structure should again ensure both easy access of substrates to catalytic sites and ready release of catalytic products. Materials for heterogeneous catalysis of great potential utility may thereby be provided. Even with only one catalytic center attached to each rod, each chamber would on average enclose more than one catalytic center (e.g., in the diamond-related lattice there
    would on average be two catalytic centers per adamantane chamber and in the simple cubic lattice three catalytic centers per chamber). Cooperative action between sites may therefore be feasible.”

  54. Another Anonymous Says:

    Very sorry for those who cannot bear to read another MOF post as well……….

    One correction: Yaghi’s accessible permanent porosity paper was “H. Li, M. Eddaoudi, T. L. Groy, O. M. Yaghi, Establishing microporosity in open metal-organic frameworks: Gas sorption isotherms for Zn(BDC) (BDC =
    1,4-benzenedicarboxylate). J. Am. Chem. Soc. 120, 8571–8572 (1998). doi: 10.1021/ja981669x”
    This paper was submitted May 14, 1998 and published August 11, 1998. It was a lot earlier than the Nature (1999) paper you tried to use to build your argument around.

  55. Rusi P. Taleyarkhan Says:

    What about me?

  56. Haftime Says:

    Two points:
    1) Porosity isn’t the only interesting thing about MOFs (especially not just surface area).
    2) That Japanese paper clearly isn’t a foundational paper. It describes a crystal structure with no comment on the idea of frameworks and they don’t follow it up. Not saying it isn’t nice work – but their interest is obviously in dyestuffs.

  57. Know it all Says:

    The bottom line is this: like it or not, Yaghi’s contribution to the ADVANCEMENT of the field of Metal-Organic Frameworks over the past twenty years, through his prolific original research and high-profiled advocacy, is unsurpassed by any other chemist. In many ways, he has fundamentally changed the landscape of inorganic chemistry. There is really no need to marginalize his significance, as only history can tell where he stands.

  58. Another chemist Says:

    You’re right! I’m very sorry to have omitted Yaghi’s earlier report, especially after such a long-winded post!

    It ruffles my feathers when he is credited with having invented the field, given all the other early contributors in the field. But I do agree, like him or not, Yaghi has certainly inspired tremendous growth in the field, arguably more than anyone else.

  59. Anonymous Says:

    I imagine that if an award for organocatalysis were given, Yian Shi would have to be a winner. His work predates the others you list and is the first general successful approach in the area.

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