The Nobel Prize for chemistry has been awarded to German scientist Benjamin List of the Max Planck Institute and Scotland-born scientist David WC MacMillan of Princeton University.
They were cited for their work in developing a new way for building molecules known as “asymmetric organocatalysis.” The winners were announced Wednesday by Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The Nobel panel said Mr List and Mr MacMillan in 2000 independently developed a new way of catalysis.
“It's already benefiting humankind greatly,” Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, a member of the Nobel panel, said.
Speaking after the announcement, Mr List said the award was a "huge surprise.” “I absolutely didn't expect this," he said, adding that he was on vacation in Amsterdam with his family when the call from Sweden came in.
Mr List said he did not initially know that Mr MacMillan was working on the same subject and figured his hunch might just be a “stupid idea” until it worked.
“I did feel that this could be something big," he said.
It is common for several scientists who work in related fields to share the prize. Last year, the chemistry prize went to Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer A. Doudna of the United States for developing a gene-editing tool that has revolutionized science by providing a way to alter DNA.
The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1.14 million). The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize's creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.
On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize in physiology or medicine to Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries into how the human body perceives temperature and touch.
The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded Tuesday to three scientists whose work found order in seeming disorder, helping to explain and predict complex forces of nature, including expanding our understanding of climate change.
Over the coming days prizes will also be awarded for outstanding work in the fields of literature, peace and economics.