Ei-ichi Negishi, who shared the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Richard Heck and Akira Suzuki for a palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling technique to link carbon atoms and synthesize molecules, has died at the age of 85. Known for his discovery of the Negishi coupling, an important reaction that forms carbon-carbon bonds, he has been a professor in the chemistry department of Purdue University in the USA since 1979 and has held a prominent position since 1998 as a chemist Richard Ernst, who became chemistry in 1991 – Received the Nobel Prize.
Negishi was born a Japanese citizen in the Japanese-ruled Manchuria. He graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1958 and went to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1960. There he received his doctorate in 1963 from the University of Pennsylvania on his work in the field of synthetic organic chemistry.
After a postdoctoral fellowship at Purdue University in the laboratory of Herbert Brown – a pioneer in the field of synthetic organic chemistry who was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1979 – Negishi moved to the Chemistry Faculty of Syracuse University in New York in 1972. He returned to Purdue and worked with Brown in 1979, the same year that Brown was awarded the Nobel Prize. Two decades later, Negishi was named the Herbert C. Brown Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and did not retire from Purdue until 2019.
“The world has lost a great and kind man – one who has changed the life of a scientist and a person,” said Purdue’s President Mitch Daniels. “We are saddened by Dr. Negishi’s death, but grateful for his world-changing discoveries and the life he touched and influenced as a Purdue professor.”
Of the two chemists with whom Negishi received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2010, the only one who is still alive is 90-year-old Akira Suzuki from the University of Hokkaido in Japan, who was also a protégé of Brown. The third winner, Richard Heck of the University of Delaware, died in 2015 at the age of 84.
In addition to the Nobel Prize in 2010, Negishi also received Japan’s highest cultural prize, the Order of Culture, and the Chemical Society of Japan Award in 1996. He also received the RSC’s Lecturer for the Sir Edward Frankland Prizein 2000 and the Organometallic Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society and the Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry in 1998 and 2010, respectively. Negishi was also made in 2010Honorary member of the RSC.
He was a prolific scientist who published around 400 original research papers and also received more than 20 honorary doctorates from universities around the world.
“Approachable and passionate”
In elementary school, Negishi moved to math and then electrical engineering, but switched to chemistry in part because he thought the pay would be better, he recalled in a 2010 interview with Adam Smith, editor-in-chief at Nobel Media. “So my motivation was very impure, but looking back I think I picked the right field for me,” he told Smith.
Just hours after the call from Stockholm to inform Negishi that he had won the Nobel Prize, he left an international press conference to teach a sophomore chemistry course. “That really tells you everything you can think of about Dr. Negishi need to know. The day he wins the Nobel Prize, he’s in class with his students, ”said Patrick Wolfe, dean of Purdue College of Science. “He was very approachable and passionate, not only to those he served but also with whom he served.”
He reportedly did not apply for a patent for the Negishi coupling technique because he wanted it to be available to everyone. It is estimated that it is used in more than a quarter of all chemical reactions in the pharmaceutical industry.
Rashmi Kumar, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine who served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Purdue from August 2014 to July 2020, tweeted on June 11th: “It is very sad to hear the death of Prof. Negishi. I remember walking down the hallways of Purdue Chem and greeting the students on his way. What I noticed was that he always seemed so down-to-earth even though he won the Nobel Prize. ‘
Purdue unveiled a bronze sculpture of Negishi in 2014 that is on permanent display at the university’s Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry alongside one of his mentors, Brown.