Kenichi Fukui (1983) - Chemical Reaction and My Life

Kenichi Fukui (1983)

Chemical Reaction and My Life

Kenichi Fukui (1983)

Chemical Reaction and My Life

Comment

Many lectures of Nobel Laureates at Lindau are highly interesting but somewhat formal presentations of scientific ideas and results. As I remember it from my years in the audience, each time a Laureate included some facts or stories about his or her life, the 700 young students and scientists sat as lighted candles and followed each word with maximum interest. Those present in 1983, when Kenichi Fukui gave his one and only presentation in Lindau, should have experienced this effect. The lecture starts with a charming account of Fukui’s personal life story and how a young boy interested in mathematics and physics became a chemist at the Kyoto Imperial University during the 1930’s and early 40’s. Even though he started in the Department for Industrial Chemistry, his professor encouraged him to continue and develop his interest in basic science. After some experimental work on hydrocarbons, Fukui concentrated on trying to understand chemical reactions from a theoretical point of view. With the help of quantum mechanics and the basic concept of molecular orbitals, he developed a set of rules defining which of the many orbitals are really important in a chemical reaction. These orbitals he named “frontier orbitals” and most of the scientific work he describes in his lecture is based on this concept. Through the whole lecture, Fukui now and then tells a little personal story, how he met Roald Hoffmann, what the referee wrote in his report on a certain manuscript, etc. As in his Banquet Speech on the Nobel Day in Stockholm 1981, he ends his lecture in Lindau 1983 with a general appeal for the development of an even deeper understanding of basic chemistry, in order to help mankind survive on Earth. Applause!

Anders Bárány

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