The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1981
Born: 4 October 1918, Nara, Japan
Died: 9 January 1998, Kyoto, Japan
Affiliation at the time of the award: Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
Prize motivation: “for their theories, developed independently, concerning the course of chemical reactions”
Prize share: 1/2
In chemical reactions, molecules composed of atoms meet and form new compounds. Electrons orbiting around the atoms’ nuclei play an important role here. In 1952, Kenichi Fukui developed a theory that showed that the properties of the orbits of electrons that are most weakly bonded to the atom are critically important in understanding chemical reactions. In later, more developed theories, Fukui and Roald Hoffmann proved independently of one another how the symmetrical properties of electron orbitals explain the course of chemical reactions.