The pair were awarded the prize “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis”. Their discoveries “started an entirely new way of thinking about how chemical molecules are put together,” said Pernilla Witung-Staffscheid, a member of the Chemistry Nobel Committee.
“This new toolbox is widely used today, for example in drug discovery, and in the production of fine chemicals and is already greatly benefiting mankind,” Wittung-Staffsched said.
In 2000 two researchers uncovered a third type of catalyst – a substance that brings about a chemical reaction – called asymmetric organocatalysis. Scientists previously believed that there were only two types of catalysts: metals and enzymes.
“The concept for catalysis is as simple as it is, and the fact is that many people have wondered why we hadn’t thought about it before,” said Johann Eckvist, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.
The new catalysts have been used in a number of ways over the past two decades, including to create new pharmaceuticals and to manufacture light-capturing molecules in solar cells. The committee credited him with “bringing the greatest benefit to mankind”.
“I hope to live up to this recognition and continue to discover wonderful things,” List told reporters after being announced as a winner.
List said he was having coffee with his wife when he got a call from the Nobel committee. “Sweden shows up on my phone, and I look at her, she looks at me and I run out to the coffee shop and, you know, she was amazing. It was very special,” he said.
Credit : edition.cnn.com