Richard F. Heck

Richard F. Heck

Richard F. Heck
Heck in 2010
Born Richard Frederick Heck
(1931-08-15)August 15, 1931
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died October 9, 2015(2015-10-09) (aged 84)
Manila, Philippines
Residence Quezon City, Philippines[1][2]
Nationality American
Fields Chemistry
Institutions University of Delaware
ETH Zurich
De La Salle University
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles
Doctoral advisor Saul Winstein
Known for Heck reaction
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2010)
Spouse Socorro Nardo-Heck (died 2012)

Richard Frederick Heck (August 15, 1931 – October 10, 2015) was an reactions that couple aryl halides with alkenes. The analgesic naproxen is an example of a compound that is prepared industrially using the Heck reaction.

For his work in Nobel Prize in Chemistry, shared with the Japanese chemists Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki.[3]


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
    • Palladium-catalyzed coupling reactions 2.1
  • Later life and death 3
  • Honors 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Early life and education

Heck was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1931.[4] He earned both his bachelor's degree (1952) and his doctor of philosophy degree (1954) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), working under the supervision of Dr. Saul Winstein. After two periods of postdoctoral research at the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, and then back at UCLA, Heck took a position with the Hercules Corporation in Wilmington, Delaware in 1957. After productive research work at Hercules, he was hired by the University of Delaware's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1971. Heck was a professor of chemistry at the University of Delaware. In 2012, he was appointed by De La Salle University in Manila as adjunct professor in its chemistry department.


The development of the arylmercury compounds with olefins using palladium as a catalyst during the late 1960s.[5] This work was published in a series of seven consecutive articles in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) for which Heck was the sole author.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

During the early 1970s, Mizoroki independently reported the use of the less toxic aryl halides as the coupling partner in the reaction.[12][13] During his career, Heck continued to improve the transformation, developing it into a powerful synthetic method for organic synthesis.

The importance of this reaction grew slowly in the organic synthesis community. In 1982, Heck was able to write an [16]

Palladium-catalyzed coupling reactions

Heck's work set the stage for a variety of other

External links

Further reading

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Heck received honorary doctorates from Uppsala University (Pharmacy) and De La Salle University (Science).


Heck died on October 9, 2015 in Manila in a public hospital.[23][24] His wife predeceased him by 2 years.

Heck moved to the Philippines after retirement [22] in 1989 with his wife, Socorro Nardo-Heck. The couple had no children.

Heck retired from the University of Delaware in 1989, where he became the Willis F. Harrington Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Its annual lectureship was named in his honor in 2004. In 2005, he was awarded the Wallace H. Carothers Award, which recognizes creative applications of chemistry that have had substantial commercial impact. He was awarded the 2006 Herbert C. Brown Award for Creative Research in Synthetic Methods.[20] On 6 October 2010, the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences awarded Heck the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He shared the 2010 Glenn T. Seaborg Medal for his work on palladium-catalyzed cross couplings.

Later life and death

Heck's contributions are not limited to the activation of halides by the oxidative addition of palladium. Heck was the first to fully characterize a π-allyl metal complex,[17] and the first to elucidate the mechanism of alkene hydroformylation.[19]

Of the several reactions developed by Heck, the greatest societal impact has been from the palladium-catalyzed coupling of an alkyne with an aryl halide. This is the reaction that was used to couple fluorescent dyes to DNA bases, allowing the automation of DNA sequencing and the examination of the human genome. In Sonogashira's original report of what is now known as the Sonogashira coupling, his group modified an alkyne coupling procedure previously reported by Heck, by adding a copper(I) salt.[18]