“I think there’s still a lot of chemistry to be developed”
Transcript of the telephone interview with Richard Heck following the announcement of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 6 October 2010. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Nobelprize.org.
[Unknown] Good evening?
[Adam Smith] Hello, may I speak to …
[U] At the telephone? Hi!
[AS] Hello, is it possible to speak to … Hello can you hear me? Good evening, may I …
[AS] May I speak to Richard Heck, please?
[U] Yes, hold on!
[AS] Thank you.
[Richard Heck] Hello?
[AS] Good evening, Professor Heck.
[AS] Hello, this is Adam Smith …
[AS] … calling from the official website of the Nobel Prize, in Stockholm. Congratulations on the news of the award.
[RH] Well, thank you very much.
[AS] Uhm, we, at the website for the Prize, have a tradition of recording very short telephone interviews with new Laureates. Would you mind if we spoke for just a few minutes?
[RH] No, that’s alright with me.
[AS] Thank you . So, I gather we’re calling you in the Philippines. Is that where you now live?
[AS] And, what were you …
[RH] Yes, that’s where we’re living at the moment.
[AS] And what were you doing when you heard the news?
[RH] Well, I was sitting in my house with the family, not doing anything much.
[AS] You developed the palladium-catalyzed coupling approach when you were working in industry mainly, in the 1960s. It must have been a productive environment?
[RH] That’s correct, yes. That’s right.
[AS] And, remarkably, the series of papers you published on it were single authored papers in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. So, one gathers you worked alone on this?
[RH] Yes, mostly.
[AS] Was … were you happy to be working alone? Was that your style in those days?
[RH] Well, it just … sort of happened that way. I didn’t plan it, or didn’t require it or anything. It just turned out that way.
[AS] Hmm! And, the reaction you developed, now know generally as the Heck reaction, is of course enormously widely used nowadays. But was uptake fast? Did people cotton on to its importance early on?
[RH] Well, I don’ t think so. I didn’t have the impression that it happened suddenly. It was a slow development , I think.
[AS] So, how do you feel about being awarded the Nobel Prize?
[RH] Well, I’m extremely grateful. It was a big surprise to me! I didn’t expect it.
[AS] When, when you think about the tool box of available methods for building organic molecules, do you think that we are now well equipped, or do you think we have a long way to go in building the tools we need to build the molecules we need?
[RH] Well, I think there’s … a lot of chemistry still out there that will help developments. And, I have no idea how long it’s going to last, but I think there’s still a lot of chemistry to be developed.
[AS] And, are you hopeful that that is being developed, that the resources are being put into, let’s say, basic science to find the tools?
[RH] Well … you know, I’ve been retired for quite a while now, and I’ve not really kept up with things. But, I think there’s still a lot to be done, yes.
[AS] When did you retire?
[RH] Oh, about four … four or five years ago, I think.
[AS] So, what’s your main pursuit these days?
[RH] Since then I’ve just been relaxing and enjoying life, I think!
[AS] Sounds a good formula! And, why did you choose the Philippines?
[RH] Well, because my wife is Philipino. And we’ve been here a few times, and it’s a nice place to live.
[AS] Grand. OK, and are you … Do you think, it’s early days yet, but do you think you’ll come to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize?
[RH] Yeah, that feels like something that I’d like to do, yes!
[AS] Great, ok! And, what about celebrations for this evening, any plans?
[RH] No, I don’t think that I’m gonna do anything, I just enjoy the feeling of having won it. I’m very much surprised … and enjoy my stay here in the Philippines. But, I don’t have any plans for a big celebration here.
[AS] Well, I can hear lots of happy voices around you so, I should leave you to go off and enjoy them. Thank you very much for speaking to us.
[RH] Well, thank you very much!
[AS] It’s a pleasure, OK. I look forward to meeting you in Stockholm.
[RH] Good talking to you. Good bye.
[AS] Thank you, goodbye.
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