Nobel-winning former UD professor dies

NEWARK — Richard Heck, a 2010 Nobel Prize winner and the Willis F. Harrington Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at the University of Delaware, died Friday, the university announced Saturday.

He was 84.

Dr. Heck won the 2010 Nobel Prize in chemistry, along with fellow scientists Akira Suzuki of Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, and Ei-Ichi Negishi of Purdue University “for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis.”

Richard F. Heck

Richard F. Heck

The Heck Reaction was named after him.

According to the University of Delaware, palladium-catalyzed cross coupling is used in many research labs and in the commercial production of pharmaceuticals and electronics.

It allowed for the development of new medication that trears cancer, HIV and asthma, among other conditions. It also made DNA sequencing easier.

“On behalf of the entire University of Delaware community, I extend deepest condolences to Dr. Heck’s family and friends and to his University colleagues and former students,” acting university President Nancy Targett said in a statement.

“His groundbreaking work that was saluted by the Nobel Prize Committee demonstrates how scientific inquiry can have a profound effect on the everyday lives of us all. We are honored that Dr. Heck spent 18 years of his distinguished career on our chemistry faculty.”

Dr. Heck was at Delaware from 1971 to 1989.

An annual lectureship in his honor was created by the university in 2004.

He last visited UD in May 2011, and May 26 was declared Richard Heck Day in his honor.

He also was given an honorary degree from the university.

“He was quiet and unassuming — indeed, somewhat shy,” Alumni Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry John Burmeister said in a statement. “His lecturing/teaching style was straightforward and noncharismatic, and he walked with a slight limp from a childhood disease.

“However, in the organic research laboratory, he was a giant, a lion, a genius!”

Other colleagues also praised his discoveries in a release from the university.

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