Benjamin List
Benjamin List in 2021
Born (1968-01-11) 11 January 1968 (age 56)
Frankfurt, West Germany
EducationFree University of Berlin (Diplom)
Goethe University Frankfurt (PhD)
RelativesChristiane Nüsslein-Volhard (aunt)[1]
AwardsGottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize (2016)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2021)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cologne
Max Planck Institute for Coal Research
Hokkaido University
ThesisSynthese eines Vitamin B 12 Semicorrins (1997)
Doctoral advisorJohann Mulzer
Other academic advisorsRichard Lerner
Carlos F. Barbas III

Benjamin List (German pronunciation: [ˈbɛnjamiːn ˈlɪst] ; born 11 January 1968) is a German chemist who is one of the directors of the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research and professor of organic chemistry at the University of Cologne. He co-developed organocatalysis, a method of accelerating chemical reactions and making them more efficient. He shared the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with David MacMillan "for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis".[2]


Born to an upper-middle-class family of scientists and artists[1] in Frankfurt, List is a great-grandson of the cardiologist Franz Volhard and a 2nd great-grandson of the chemist Jacob Volhard.[3] His aunt, the 1995 Nobel laureate in medicine Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, is the sister of his mother, architect Heidi List.[1][4] At age three, his parents divorced.[3]

Career and research

List obtained his Diplom (M.Sc.) degree in chemistry from the Free University of Berlin in 1993, and his PhD from Goethe University Frankfurt in 1997. His doctoral dissertation was titled Synthese eines Vitamin B 12 Semicorrins (Synthesis of a Vitamin B 12 Semicorrin),[5][6] and was advised by Johann Mulzer.[7][8] List worked at the Scripps Research Institute Department of Molecular Biology in La Jolla, US as a postdoctoral researcher in Carlos F. Barbas III and Richard Lerner's research groups[9] from 1997 to 1998 with a scholarship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation[3] and as an assistant professor from 1999 to 2003.[10][11]

In 2003 he returned to Germany to become group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, and in 2005 he became one of the institute's directors, heading the Homogeneous Catalysis Department.[3][12] He served as the institute's managing director from 2012 to 2014.[7] He has held a part-time position as an honorary professor of organic chemistry at the University of Cologne since 2004.[10][11] List is also a principal investigator at the Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery, Hokkaido University since 2018.[13][14] He is the editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Synlett.[15] As of 2021, he has an h-index of 95 according to Google Scholar[16] and of 86 according to Scopus.[17]

Catalyst for asymmetric reactions, L-proline

List is considered to be one of the founders of organocatalysis, which uses non-metal and non-enzyme catalysts.[18] In particular, while still an assistant professor he discovered the possibility of using the amino acid proline as an efficient chiral catalyst.[18][19] This takes place in intermolecular aldol reactions, in which carbon atoms from two different molecules are bonded together, induced by proline.[18][19][20] The development is based on the Hajos–Parrish–Eder–Sauer–Wiechert reaction.[21][22] Subsequently, he developed the first proline-catalyzed Mannich,[23] Michael,[24] and α-amination reactions.[25][26] He found asymmetric catalysis (especially Asymmetric counteranion directed catalysis, ACDC).[27][28] He developed also new methods of textile organic catalysis, in which soluble organic catalysts and textiles are bound.[29] These methods could, for example, help to treat water where there is no fresh water.[18] Asymmetric organocatalysis[26] is particularly important in bioactive organic compounds, where the chirality of the compounds is important, for example in drug production.[20]

On 6 October 2021, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with David MacMillan "for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis."[2] The development has great influence on pharmaceutical research and the drug production and "made chemistry greener".[30]

Personal life

List married Sabine List in La Jolla in 1999 and they have two sons, Theo and Paul.[31][32][33][34][3] They all survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.[34]

List's parents sought to raise their children with an anti-authoritarian parenting style; he has admitted occasionally using the approach with his own children, stating that "you may only be 12, but if you think it will do you good to eat ten chocolate bars, then go ahead and do it. I have faith in you. But my advice is: I wouldn't do it."[3]

Honors and awards


Selected works



  1. ^ a b c "Nobelpreis für Nüsslein-Volhards Neffen". Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021". Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Pietschmann, Catarina (6 October 2021). "A Perspective for Life". Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  4. ^ "Nobelpreis an Deutschen für Revolution in der Chemie". Morgenpost. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  5. ^ OCLC 613569311
  6. ^ Mulzer, Johann; List, Benjamin; Bats, Jan W. (1 June 1997). "Stereocontrolled Synthesis of a Nonracemic Vitamin B12 A−B-Semicorrin". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 119 (24). American Chemical Society (ACS): 5512–5518. doi:10.1021/ja9700515. ISSN 0002-7863.
  7. ^ a b "Benjamin List, H. C. Brown lecture" (PDF). Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  8. ^ "Benjamin List, Direktor am Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, erhält ERC Advanced Grant des Europäischen Forschungsrates" (PDF). Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  9. ^ Service, Robert F. (6 October 2021). "Nobel honors molecule builders who made chemistry easier and greener". Science. doi:10.1126/science.acx9266. S2CID 242889498. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  10. ^ a b "List, Benjamin". Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. 23 September 2021. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Vita Prof. List". 10 May 2021. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  12. ^ "Board of Directors". Max Planck Institute for Coal Research. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  13. ^ "ICReDD Principal Investigator, Prof. Benjamin List won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021!! Huge congratulations!!". ICReDD: Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery, Hokkaido University (WPI-ICReDD). 6 October 2021. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  14. ^ a b "LIST, Benjamin". ICReDD: Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery, Hokkaido University (WPI-ICReDD). 23 December 2020. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  15. ^ List, Benjamin (30 May 2017). "Crowd-based peer review can be good and fast". Nature. 546 (7656): 9. Bibcode:2017Natur.546....9L. doi:10.1038/546009a. hdl:11858/00-001M-0000-002E-18FF-E. PMID 28569830.
  16. ^ Benjamin List publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  17. ^ "Scopus preview – List, Benjamin – Author details – Scopus". Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  18. ^ a b c d "DFG gratuliert Benjamin List zum Nobelpreis für Chemie". (in German). Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  19. ^ a b List, Lerner & Barbas 2000.
  20. ^ a b Castelvecchi, Davide; Stoye, Emma (6 October 2021). "'Elegant' catalysts that tell left from right scoop chemistry Nobel". Nature. 598 (7880). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 247–248. Bibcode:2021Natur.598..247C. doi:10.1038/d41586-021-02704-2. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 34616090. S2CID 238422185.
  21. ^ List, Benjamin (2002). "Proline-catalyzed asymmetric reactions". Tetrahedron. 58 (28). Elsevier BV: 5573–5590. doi:10.1016/s0040-4020(02)00516-1. ISSN 0040-4020.
  22. ^ Hajos, Zoltan G.; Parrish, David R. (1974). "Asymmetric synthesis of bicyclic intermediates of natural product chemistry". The Journal of Organic Chemistry. 39 (12). American Chemical Society (ACS): 1615–1621. doi:10.1021/jo00925a003. ISSN 0022-3263.
  23. ^ List, Benjamin; Pojarliev, Peter; Biller, William T.; Martin, Harry J. (10 January 2002). "The Proline-Catalyzed Direct Asymmetric Three-Component Mannich Reaction: Scope, Optimization, and Application to the Highly Enantioselective Synthesis of 1,2-Amino Alcohols". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 124 (5). American Chemical Society (ACS): 827–833. doi:10.1021/ja0174231. ISSN 0002-7863. PMID 11817958.
  24. ^ List, Benjamin; Pojarliev, Peter; Martin, Harry J. (14 July 2001). "Efficient Proline-Catalyzed Michael Additions of Unmodified Ketones to Nitro Olefins". Organic Letters. 3 (16). American Chemical Society (ACS): 2423–2425. doi:10.1021/ol015799d. ISSN 1523-7060. PMID 11483025.
  25. ^ List, Benjamin (30 April 2002). "Direct Catalytic Asymmetric α-Amination of Aldehydes". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 124 (20). American Chemical Society (ACS): 5656–5657. doi:10.1021/ja0261325. ISSN 0002-7863. PMID 12010036.
  26. ^ a b List, Benjamin (1 December 2007). "Introduction: Organocatalysis". Chemical Reviews. 107 (12). American Chemical Society (ACS): 5413–5415. doi:10.1021/cr078412e. ISSN 0009-2665.
  27. ^ Mayer & List 2006.
  28. ^ Mahlau, Manuel; List, Benjamin (28 November 2012). "Asymmetric Counteranion-Directed Catalysis: Concept, Definition, and Applications". Angewandte Chemie International Edition. 52 (2). Wiley: 518–533. doi:10.1002/anie.201205343. ISSN 1433-7851. PMID 23280677.
  29. ^ Lee et al. 2013.
  30. ^ Dörhöfer, Pamela (6 October 2021). "Chemie-Nobelpreis für "geniales Werkzeug"". Frankfurter Rundschau (in German). Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  31. ^ Harmsen, Torsten (6 October 2021). "Ehemaliger Berliner Student Benjamin List gewinnt Chemie-Nobelpreis". Berliner Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  32. ^ Müller-Jung, Joachim (6 October 2021). "Katalysator-Forscher List: Respektlos zum Nobelpreis". FAZ.NET (in German). Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  33. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021, Benjamin List Interview". 6 October 2021. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  34. ^ a b "Benjamin List: Der Nobelpreisträger, der den Tsunami überlebte". WDR. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  35. ^ "Awards Prof. List". Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. 10 May 2021. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  36. ^ "Diplom an der Freien Universität Berlin: Müller gratuliert Chemie-Nobelpreisträgern List und McMillan". rbb24 (in German). 6 October 2021. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  37. ^ "Professor Ben List erhält den Herbert C. Brown Award". Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung (in German). 1 October 2021. Retrieved 6 October 2021.

Further reading