Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
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, Kenichi Fukui and Roald Hoffmann proved independently of one another how the symmetrical properties of electron orbitals explain the course of chemical reactions.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.