Heck, Richard Fred

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Richard Fred Heck, 1931–, American chemist, b. Springfield, Mass., Ph.D. Univ. of California, Los Angeles, 1954. Heck was a researcher at the Hercules Corporation in Wilmington, Del., from 1957 to 1971, when he joined the faculty at the Univ. of Delaware. He retired in 1989 and now lives in the Philippines. In 2010, Heck won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Japanese chemists Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki for their research during the 1960s and 70s on palladium-catalyzed coupling reactions in organic synthesis. Their work, carried out independently, laid the foundation for the synthesis of chemicals for applications in such diverse areas as pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, and advanced technological materials. Palladium-catalyzed cross coupling also led to breakthroughs in DNA sequencing. Heck published his initial work in 1968 and refinements in the 1970s. His work was later adapted to make the cancer drug Taxol, steroids, and morphine.