|Born||11 January 1968|
Frankfurt, West Germany
|Education||Free University of Berlin (Diplom)|
Goethe University Frankfurt (PhD)
|Relatives||Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (aunt)|
|Awards||Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize (2016)|
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2021)
|Institutions||University of Cologne|
Max Planck Institute for Coal Research
|Thesis||Synthese eines Vitamin B 12 Semicorrins (1997)|
|Doctoral advisor||Johann Mulzer|
|Other academic advisors||Richard Lerner|
Carlos F. Barbas III
Benjamin List (German pronunciation: [ˈbɛnjamiːn ˈlɪst] (listen); 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".
Born to an upper-middle-class family of scientists and artists in Frankfurt, List is a great-grandson of the cardiologist Franz Volhard and a 2nd great-grandson of the chemist Jacob Volhard. His aunt, the 1995 Nobel laureate in medicine Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, is the sister of his mother, architect Heidi List. At age three, his parents divorced.
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), and was advised by Johann Mulzer. 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 from 1997 to 1998 with a scholarship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and as an assistant professor from 1999 to 2003.
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. He served as the institute's managing director from 2012 to 2014. He has held a part-time position as an honorary professor of organic chemistry at the University of Cologne since 2004. List is also a principal investigator at the Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery, Hokkaido University since 2018. He is the editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Synlett. As of 2021[update], he has an h-index of 95 according to Google Scholar and of 86 according to Scopus.
List is considered to be one of the founders of organocatalysis, which uses non-metal and non-enzyme catalysts. In particular, while still an assistant professor he discovered the possibility of using the amino acid proline as an efficient chiral catalyst. This takes place in intermolecular aldol reactions, in which carbon atoms from two different molecules are bonded together, induced by proline. The development is based on the Hajos–Parrish–Eder–Sauer–Wiechert reaction. Subsequently, he developed the first proline-catalyzed Mannich, Michael, and α-amination reactions. He found asymmetric catalysis (especially Asymmetric counteranion directed catalysis, ACDC). He developed also new methods of textile organic catalysis, in which soluble organic catalysts and textiles are bound. These methods could, for example, help to treat water where there is no fresh water. Asymmetric organocatalysis is particularly important in bioactive organic compounds, where the chirality of the compounds is important, for example in drug production.
On 6 October 2021, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with David MacMillan "for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis." The development has great influence on pharmaceutical research and the drug production and "made chemistry greener".
List married Dr. Sabine List in La Jolla in 1999 and they have two sons, Theo and Paul. They all survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
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."