A Nobel Prize Prediction from the 13th Century

A Nobel Prize Prediction from the thirteenth Century


How do you make a molecule?

Numerous molecules are already made, in fact. Like the 2 oxygen atoms hooked collectively to make the oxygen molecule (O2) for our respiration. And the hydrogen atom, with two oxygen atoms, swimming alongside collectively to make the water molecule.

Some others are the vastly bigger molecules for chlorophyll and the myriad genes that information our heredity. And these molecules, too, are already made.

However not all of the molecules we would need or want presently exist. Some now we have to make up from scratch.


By cobbling them collectively from already current molecules. Molecules are the Legos of the chemical world. They are often endlessly organized and re-arranged.

Methods of disassembly and reassembly present the idea for what number of new compounds are created.

Certainly, such widespread hypertension medication as metoprolol, lisinopril, and hydrochlorothiazide had been as soon as mere figments of the chemical creativeness earlier than their conception within the check tubes of the laboratory.

However the issue with the era of such compounds is that the pathway to their existence is commonly murky and complicated. That is very true since all the weather should be linked collectively in a singular spatial configuration.

Historically there have been solely two strategies accessible: utilizing extraordinarily sophisticated enzymes and counting on steel catalysts. However each approaches are gradual and troublesome.

They’re messy, soiled, gradual, costly, cumbersome, harmful, sophisticated, poisonous, polluting, and unhealthy. Chemistry wanted a brand new strategy.

Fortunately, William of Ockham, had already discovered one. He was an English Franciscan friar and thinker who lived within the thirteenth century.

Throughout his lifetime, William of Ockham had centered a lot of his thought on the complexities and logistics of resolution making. The large query he requested was, “In case you have an issue, and have a number of very totally different options, all of which result in the identical reply, which of the totally different options is the ‘proper’ reply?”

The proper reply, he believed, was at all times the best one. And this precept has develop into enshrined within the literature of philosophy as “Ockham’s Razor”: “The only appropriate reply is at all times the very best reply.”

Enter Benjamin Listing of the Max Planck Institute in Germany and David W.C. McMillan of Princeton College. Working independently, they had been each looking for a less complicated method to create new molecules.

In 2000, after poring over the literature and conducting a lot experimentation, they each found some small natural molecules that would carry out the job of complicated molecule creation significantly better than the older conventional strategies. The brand new methodology was inexpensive, simpler to carry out, faster, much less poisonous, and had fewer dangerous unwanted side effects.

It was easier.

The 2 researchers acquired the 2021 Nobel Prize for chemistry.

Permilla Wittung-Stafshede of the Nobel Cmmittee mentioned, “Their course of is already benefitting humankind enormously. It’s a really elegant software.”

William of Ockham would have understood fully.

In reminiscence of Dr. Marilyn Adams, who was an awesome fanatic for Ockham’s Razor.


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