“If You Want to Find Something New, Look for Something New!”

(p. D8) Yves Chauvin, who shared the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for deciphering a “green chemistry” reaction now used to make pharmaceuticals and plastics more efficiently while generating less hazardous waste, died on Tuesday [January 27, 2015] in Tours, France.
. . .
He confessed that he was not a brilliant student, even in chemistry. “I chose chemistry rather by chance,” he wrote, “because I firmly believed (and still do) that you can become passionately involved in your work, whatever it is.”
Mr. Chauvin graduated from the Lyon School of Industrial Chemistry in 1954. Military service and other circumstances prevented him from pursuing a doctoral degree, which he said he regretted. “I had no training in research as such and as a consequence I am in a sense self-taught,” he wrote in his Nobel Prize lecture.
He worked in industry for a few years before quitting, frustrated by an inability to pursue new ideas. “My motto is more, ‘If you want to find something new, look for something new!’ ” Mr. Chauvin wrote. “There is a certain amount of risk in this attitude, as even the slightest failure tends to be resounding, but you are so happy when you succeed that it is worth taking the risk.”
He found the freedom to choose his research when he joined the French Petroleum Institute in 1960, and it led to his breakthrough on metathesis.
“Like all sciences, chemistry is marked by magic moments,” Mr. Chauvin wrote. “For someone fortunate enough to live such a moment, it is an instant of intense emotion: an immense field of investigation suddenly opens up before you.”

For the full obituary, see:

KENNETH CHANG. “Yves Chauvin, Chemist Sharing Nobel Prize, Dies at 84.” The New York Times (Sat., JAN. 31, 2015): D8.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date JAN. 30, 2015.)

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