If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Obituary: Nobel Laureate Yves Chauvin Dies At 84

by Bethany Halford
January 29, 2015

Credit: CHESNOT/SIPA/Newscom
Chauvin at his home in Tours, France, on Oct. 5, 2005.
French scientist Yves Chauvin, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry at his home in Tours, France on October 5, 2005.
Credit: CHESNOT/SIPA/Newscom
Chauvin at his home in Tours, France, on Oct. 5, 2005.

Yves Chauvin, a pioneer in organometallics who shared the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, passed away this week at the age of 84.

Chauvin is best known for his work on the mechanism of olefin metathesis—a reaction in which two carbon-carbon double bonds swap bonding partners to form two new carbon-carbon double bonds.

Although the reaction had been known since the 1950s, it wasn’t until 1971 that a convincing mechanism was proposed.

That’s when Chauvin and Jean-Louis Hérisson, working at the French Petroleum Institute, suggested that a metal carbene initiates the reaction. The carbene reacts with an olefin to form a new olefin and a new metal carbene, thereby propagating the reaction, they hypothesized (Makromol. Chem. 1971, DOI: 10.1002/macp.1971.021410112).

The proposition led other chemists to refine the mechanism and make the reaction more practical. Robert H. Grubbs and Richard R. Schrock, who shared the Nobel Prize with Chauvin, led efforts to develop the catalysts that make olefin metathesis a reaction that is widely used to prepare complex molecules and polymers.

Chauvin was born in Menin, Belgium, near the French border. His parents were French, originating from long-established families in the small village of Beaumont-la-Ronce. “I used to spend my holidays there in my grandparents’ large family house, with my numerous cousins,” Chauvin recalled in his Nobel Prize biography. “When I die, I am going to be buried in the village cemetery.”

Chauvin confessed to not being much of a student, even in the subject of chemistry. “I chose chemistry rather by chance, because I firmly believed that you can become passionately involved in your work whatever it is,” he said. Although he would eventually become research director at the French Petroleum Institute, Chauvin never undertook studies for a doctoral degree—a fact he regretted.

“Like all sciences, chemistry is marked by magic moments,” Chauvin noted in his Nobel Prize lecture. “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.”



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.