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Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan Won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

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Two scientists share Chemistry Nobel for developing tool for building moleculesThe Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to German chemist Benjamin List and British chemist David W.C. MacMillan for the development of a precise new and ingenious tool for molecular construction: asymmetric organocatalysis. 

  • 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was announced by Professor Göran K. Hansson, Secretary-General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
  • The Nobel Prize carries a gold medal and a cash prize of 10 million Swedish kronor(around Rs 8.5 crore) which will be shared equally between the laureates.


Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan independently discovered that organic molecules can be used as a catalyst, a tool to speed up the reactions.

Significance of asymmetric organocatalysis:

i.Asymmetric organocatalysis is the third type of catalysis that builds upon small organic molecules.

ii.The development of asymmetric organocatalysis has made chemistry greener and made it easier to produce asymmetric molecules.

iii.This has a great impact on pharmaceutical research.


So far it was believed that there were only 2 types of catalysts available, which are metal and enzymes.

About the Laureates:

Benjamin List was born in 1968 in Frankfurt, Germany.

  • He is the Director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany.

David W.C. MacMillan was born in 1968 in Bellshill, United Kingdom.

  • He is a Professor at Princeton University, the United States of America(USA).

Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020:

Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier(Germany), Jennifer A. Doudna(USA) for the development of a method for genome editing. Genetic scissors: a tool for rewriting the code of life.

Facts on Nobel Prize in Chemistry:

i.Between 1901 and 2021, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to 188 laureates out of which only 7 were women.

ii.Marie Curie and Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, are the women laureates who were awarded unshared chemistry prizes.

iii.Linus Pauling is the only person who has been awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes.