Robert H. Grubbs

Banquet speech

Robert H. Grubbs’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in the Stockholm City Hall, 10 December 2005.

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for Yves Chauvin, Richard Schrock and me to have been selected to receive this year’s Prize in Chemistry “for the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis.” I am very pleased to be part of this unequalled celebration of science that is held in Sweden each December.

We are proud to represent that group of chemists who have developed catalysts that enable new ways of coordinating the dance-like interchange of atoms in one class of molecules called olefins. Catalysts are the conductors who choreograph the chemical dance that results in the formation of new structures. Just as the influence of catalysts occurs, in a sense, behind the scenes of a chemical reaction, catalysis has been behind three of the last 6 chemistry prizes. Catalysts offer the promise of making chemical transformations far less polluting. We hope that the recognition of our chemistry provides a drive for the development of new green methods for the synthesis of essential chemicals.

The recognition of our science in a public event is surprising and pleasing, as our science takes place in the isolation of the chemistry laboratory. Despite this, the synthesis of new molecules, from pharmaceuticals to plastics, is essential for modern life.

The science that is being honored took place over a 30 year period and hundreds of coworkers were involved in our groups. We thank them for their dedication, hard work and creative contributions. This was not a prize based on a single Eureka event. It is the accumulation of smaller triumphs and moments of excitement that have assembled to form the still-evolving whole.

I hope future generations of scientists have the freedom to pursue a topic for over 30 years and to watch it bloom from an intellectual curiosity into commercial applications.

We thank you for a wonderful event and we applaud the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Foundation for their celebration of science at this critical time in history.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2005

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