Nobel Laureate Dies

Richard Heck, pioneer of a reaction that binds carbon atoms using palladium, has passed away at age 84.

Oct 19, 2015
Karen Zusi

UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE

Richard Heck, a 2010 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, died earlier this month (October 9) in a Manila, Philippines hospital, following years of illness, Reuters reported. He was 84.

Heck earned his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the 1950s. As a faculty member at the University of Delaware, he discovered the eponymous “Heck reaction,” which connects carbon atoms using a metal called palladium. The discovery impacted DNA sequencing, drug discoveries, and the electronics industry. Heck shared the 2010 chemistry Nobel with two other chemists; all three were recognized for their work on carbon atom linkages.

“Almost every pharmaceutical that is made today is made using these organo-palladium couplings,” Douglass Taber, a chemist at the University of Delaware, where Heck was an emeritus professor, told The New York Times.

Heck retired to Manila in 1989 with his wife, Socorro Nardo-Heck, who died in 2012. Among other family members, he is survived by a nephew, Michael Nardo. “I hope his contributions to the chemical society and the whole world will be remembered,” Nardo told the Associated Press.