Education International, Vol. 7, No. 1, AN-1, Received October 21,
the Youth of the World Who Aspire to a Career in Chemistry
from Nobel Laureates to Young People (5)
Professor Ryoji Noyori, 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Committee on Chemistry Education (CCE) of IUPAC edits and issues
an electronic journal, Chemical Education International (CEI)
cei). For the benefit of those who aspire to a career
in chemistry, each issue contains a short interview with a Nobel
Laureate in chemistry. In this way, we hope to provide a profile
of those who are at the forefront of chemistry and give aspiring
chemists role models for their future endeavors.
intended readership of the interviews published in CEI are senior
high school students who are at a point in their life where they
must make decisions about their future career, or first year university
students in science and technology who must begin to specialize
in a chosen field of study.
are extremely grateful to Prof. Ryoji Noyori* for his appreciation
of the idea of this series of interviews and for kindly sparing
us his precious time.
interview with Prof. Ryoji Noyori (left, on picture
1 above), by Prof.
Yoshito Takeuchi and Prof.
Masato M. Ito was carried out at the office of the President,
RIKEN on March 16, 2005.
2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was shared jointly by Prof. Ryoji
Noyori (Nagoya University), Dr. William S. Knowles (Monsanto Co.)
and Prof. K. Barry Sharpless (Scripps Research Institute) by virtue
of their achievement in catalytic asymmetric synthesis.
Chemical Education International
Prof. Yoshito Takeuchi (Titular member, CCE), Prof. M. M. Ito (Editor)
Professor Ryoji Noyori
First, let me ask your background. Were there any special circumstances
or a particular stimulus that led you to pursue a career in science?
I was born in 1938 and I entered primary school in the year the
Second World War ended. This period corresponds to a time in Japanese
history when the country was in an economically difficult situation,
and also in a state of confusion. This might have made a difference
between me and Japanese children of my era with children who grew
up in other countries. I suppose my desire to become a scientist
was fostered in such an atmosphere.
father was a graduate of the Faculty of Engineering, the Imperial
University of Tokyo. After he graduated from the university he was
employed by Kanegafuchi Spinning Company, and then Kanegafuchi Chemical
Industrial Co. (now KANEKA) as a chemical engineer. So our house
was full of chemical journals and technical books. In addition,
there were samples of powdered polymers and fibers; in closets I
could find beakers and flasks. This was the situation into which
I was born and grew up.
first cue to awaken in me a passion for science was the news that
Prof. Hideki Yukawa was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics
in 1949. On this occasion I learned of the existence of the Nobel
Prize. I was in the fifth grade at primary school. This news was
very encouraging to Japanese people who were still suffering from
I belong to much the same generation as yours. I also remember the
impact of the news very vividly.
Just after I was born, my father, accompanied by my mother, went
to Europe to inspect research facilities there. He was lucky in
that one of the passengers on the ship, the Yasukuni-maru, was a
young Prof. Yukawa who was also going to Europe to attend the Solvey
Congress. For one month my parents traveled on the ship and participated
in dance parties and mahjong games. My father told me that Prof.
Yukawa was asked to deliver a public lecture which turned out to
be easy to follow though the topic was very difficult.
Soon after they arrived in Europe, the Second World War broke out.
So my father had to return to Japan after visiting a couple of research
institutes such as the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. The return trip
was via the U.S.A. on the ship the Kamakura-maru; on which Prof.
Yukawa also traveled.
When Prof. Yukawa received the Nobel Prize in 1949, my parents retold
the episodes of their trip almost every night when we were dining.
For this reason I felt that I knew Prof. Yukawa personally, and
I also thought that I would like to enter Kyoto University.
This photo was taken in Hawaii in 1939. The Kamakura-maru stopped
at Hawaii on her way from San Francisco to Yokohama. Prof. Yukawa
(2nd from left; 32 years old at that time), Mr. Kaneki Noyori (3rd;
28 years old) and Mrs. Suzuko Noyori (24 years old).
Tell us about your primary school life.
My primary school was attached to the Department of Education, Kobe
University, and located at the foot of Mt. Rokko, which is rich
in nature. Our school was a kind of experimental school, and there
were many splendid teachers who taught us with care. I remember
there was no particular subject which I was fond of, but I could
say that I enjoyed studying in general.
During my primary school days, my time was mostly spent with friends,
playing baseball, and strolling forests and woods nearby, rather
than study. In those days, as a matter of fact, there were no TV
or computer games; probably only the phonograph was around then.
It was also an economically difficult period, and parents were busy
with their work. So, I was in a circle of brothers and friends.
You entered Nada Middle School and then Nada High School, which
is one of the leading secondary education schools in Japan. What
were your experiences like there?
I remember it was during the spring break before I entered middle
school when an event took place which influenced my future career
very significantly. I call the event "the Nylon case".
For some reason or other, my father took me to the announcement
of the new product, nylon, by the Toyo Rayon Co. (now TORAY). I
attended to the meeting as a sole child among many adults. The President
of the company told the audience something to the effect that the
amylan (nylon) could be prepared from coal, water and air. I was
very impressed, knowing that expensive materials such as nylon could
be produced from very cheap raw materials. I was surprised to learn
the power of chemistry.
This event took place in the midst of the postwar confusion, when
economic reconstruction was a kind of national target. Though I
was a child, I felt that I should study chemistry hard and contribute
to society by producing useful materials as a chemical engineer.
I may say that this experience was the first incentive to become
In Nada Middle School I was taught chemistry by Dr. Kazuo Nakamoto
who later became a professor of chemistry in the U.S.A. He was then
a lecturer at Osaka University and taught us at Nada Middle School
as a special teacher. I remember he was extremely smart. Because
of the Nylon case, chemistry was my favorite subject, and I studied
chemistry eagerly. Mathematics was also a favorite subject of mine.
3 Prof. Noyori when he was a student at Nada High School.
Judging from your story, we could say that you had pursued a career
as a chemist from your middle school years straight through.
This is so, though I am not sure which is better; to go straight
through or to take a broader, less direct path. As for me, I made
up my mind in my childhood to become a chemist.
As for extracurricular activities, I learned Judo. I remember I
was a very active and naughty boy, although sometimes I was a little
timid. At the entrance examination for Nada Middle School, I became
a little nervous, and I misunderstood a mathematics problem, which
had made me worry very much. I thought boys should be strong and
tough, and this was the reason why I joined to the Judo club. At
that time (1951), Japanese traditional sports (martial arts) were
not allowed. However, the school had a deep connection with KODOKAN,
and Japanese traditional sports were quite popular in Nada School.
The Judo club was one of the most active. I belonged to the Judo
club until the end of the second year of high school, which means
that I played Judo for five years at school.
Please tell us about school life at Nada High School.
The Kobe First Middle School (now Kobe High School) was famous for
its severe discipline. It was said that pupils had to eat their
lunch, without sitting on their stool, while other pupils on duty
cleaned the classroom. On rainy days, one pupil ate his lunch while
the other held an umbrella. After the war, excellent teachers from
Kobe First Middle School moved to Nada Middle and High Schools mostly
because of changes made to the educational system.
Teachers at Nada Middle and High School were truly excellent. All-around
education was the motto of the school. For instance, Mr. Masanori
Maino, a mathematics teacher, taught us lots of things, such as
Chinese poetry for example, other than mathematics during class.
Teachers of other subjects also guided us in a similar manner. By
simply attending classes, we could acquire enough knowledge to pass
the entrance examination for Kyoto University.
CEI: Now tell us about your life in Kyoto University. We
were most interested in the process by which you chose your research
I was attracted by the reputation of Prof. Ichiro Sakurada and this
was the reason why I entered Kyoto University. In the first two
years of general education, I must admit I was not very diligent.
I joined the rugby football club though I was not a regular member.
Drinking alcohol and having fun with friends were my main activity
during this period.
Prof. Sakurada belonged to the Department of Fiber Chemistry, while
I was a student of Department of Industrial Chemistry. There were,
however, several lectures common to both departments.
When I became a third year student, I began study in my major. Because
I had not been very diligent, the initial stage was rather tough
for me. I did like experiments though, and took the initiative to
carry out experiments. I joined the group of Prof. Keiiti Sisido
for the graduate research program. Prof. Sisido was very fond of
baseball, and he was an elderly gentleman with many hobbies. He
taught us in very nice way.
At that time there were not so many students who continued their
study in the graduate school, but I began to think about further
study at graduate school because I was then regretting somewhat
my laziness in the initial stage of university life. I asked Prof.
Sisido to accept me as a graduate student, telling him that I would
like to study chemistry from the beginning. Prof. Sisido accepted
and told me that I would be supervised by Associate Professor Hitosi
Nozaki, who was known to be most strict with students.
I bowed to Prof. Nozaki, adding, "I am very immature, but I
will try my best. Please supervise me." and I was accepted.
In his office a large number of abstracts of papers was neatly filed.
Prof. Nozaki told me that I could read any of these I chose. It
was only me who was allowed to use these. He supervised me very
closely, and I studied very hard so that I could meet his demands.
Gradually I realized there was nothing more interesting than chemistry
and I became absorbed in it. Though my knowledge was limited, I
had the vitality and health to compensate for this lack of experience.
At least twice a week I did overnight experiments. I was really
serious and intense. It was indeed the union of a bright professor
and an average student! Life is indeed incomprehensible!
As for the topic of my research, Prof. Nozaki wanted me to help
him with his study on the mechanism of organic reactions, especially
on reaction intermediates. In those days we were not equipped with
sophisticated instruments to prove the structure of the intermediates.
What we could do then was just to imagine the structures in your
Thanks to these experiences I mastered the fundamentals of organic
chemistry, and established a way to think problems through in a
thorough manner. Later, when I was investigating the chemistry of
catalysts, I noticed that the power of thinking and the methodology
I obtained in Nozaki's laboratory were very useful in developing
new systems of catalysts. I could imagine something that no one
had ever thought of.
You then began to investigate your main theme, asymmetric synthesis.
A turning point in my career as a chemist was my appointment as
an assistant, a junior faculty member. I intended to continue my
study to obtain a higher degree after I finished my research for
the MS degree. Then Professor Nozaki was promoted to full professor
and intended to organize a new research group. Prof. Nozaki wanted
me to be his assistant instead of continuing on with graduate study.
My original intention was to obtain a PhD and then to enter the
chemical industry as a senior industrial chemist. I was, however,
persuaded by him, and finally accepted his offer.
At Kyoto University with young students.
Prof. Nozaki (standing) and Prof. Noyori (2nd from right) (1964).
theme of my research was the study of carbenes, which are short-lived
reaction intermediates. Carbenes, which are generated by thermolysis
or photolysis of diazoalkanes, can exist in triplet or singlet forms
with the reaction proceeding non-selectively.
It was already known that if one adds some copper compound during
decomposition the reaction proceeds smoothly and selectively as
the singlet. Some investigators attempted to explain this behavior
by a physical phenomenon such as spin relaxation. I guessed, however,
that a chemical bond might be formed between the carbene and copper.
How could I confirm my hypothesis? I thought that if we use a chiral
(optically active) copper catalyst, the product of the reaction
between carbenes and alkenes, a cyclopropane derivative, might be
One day we combined an optically active Schiff base with copper
ion, and used this complex as the catalyst. If an optically active
cyclopropane derivative would be formed, this would prove that a
complex between copper and the carbene :CHCOOC2H5
was formed. With this assumption, we started the reaction.
Formation of cyclopropane derivatives from alkenes and carbenes
nights' work was necessary to obtain enough sample to measure its
optical rotation. Though the work was tough, I vividly remember
the elation I felt when we found that the expected results were
CEI: Were you already aiming in your mind at asymmetric synthesis?
Not at all. This experiment was aimed to prove the existence of
the complex between carbene and copper ion. I hadn't yet thought
of asymmetric synthesis at that time.
The result was submitted to the Journal of American Chemical
Society, but was rejected. We had to accept their decision since
the optical yield was only ca. 10 %. The paper was later accepted
by Tetrahedron Letters to our satisfaction.
I immediately realized that what we had obtained was the general
principle of asymmetric catalytic reactions. The asymmetric catalytic
reactions was the first step in the challenge of Pasteur's principle,
"Dissymmetry is the only and distinct boundary between biological
and non-biological chemistry."
In a word, it was an attempt to challenge nature, was it?
Indeed, exactly so. What I aimed at was not "catalysts as they
are", but "catalysts as we want them to be." We believed
that it should, in principle, be possible to design and synthesize
any compound. My idea was to incorporate appropriate electronic
and steric effects into molecules and to use them as catalysts.
This was in 1966. Around that time, although some homogeneous catalysts
such as metal carbonyls were known, the notion of molecular catalysts
which would make use of the characteristics of molecules was not
How you could succeed in the challenge to Pasteur?
After this I moved to Nagoya University, but there were campus troubles
at that time and I was allowed to study abroad at Harvard University
with Prof. E. J. Corey*1 as my supervisor during this
period. There I encountered hydrogenation reactions.
The reason why the asymmetric catalytic reaction was not highly
estimated was the low optical yield of the reaction. Furthermore,
the formation of a cyclopropane ring was a special reaction without
the possibility of wider use at that time. I thought that I had
to devise a reaction that was more general and with a higher optical
The project given to me by Prof. Corey was to investigate the hydrogenation
of an intermediate necessary for the synthesis of prostaglandin.
It was necessary to hydrogenate selectively the cis double bond
of a compound which also had a trans double bond. I became friendly
with Assistant Prof. J. A. Osborn, the former student of
Prof. G. Wilkinson*2. We talked everyday, and I attended
his lectures on inorganic chemistry. Mr. R. R. Schrock,*3
one of his students, once gave me a newly synthesizd rhodium catalyst.
professor of Harvard University, U. S. A. Received Nobel Prize
in Chemistry in 1990 for his contribution to organic synthesis.
*2 Wilkinson, professor of Imperial College, London,
U. K. received Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1973 for his contribution
to the chemistry of organometallic compounds.
*3 Schrock received Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2005.
Now Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Just at that time, Dr. W. S. Knowles, with whom I later received
the Nobel Prize, and Prof. L. Horner discovered asymmetric hydrogenation.
The optical yield was about 10% and hence the significance was not
very great from the viewpoint of synthetic chemistry. This was the
second example of asymmetric synthesis by means of an organometallic
molecular catalyst. I
believed that the reaction should be developed, and made up my mind
to continue investigating asymmetric synthesis.
synthesis is a synthetic reaction in which unequal amounts of (+)-
and (-)-enantiomers are formed. If one enantiomer is formed in a
100 % yield then the reaction is called perfectly enantioselective.
See reaction schema)
5 The Nobel Prize diploma awarded to Prof. Noyori.
Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2001
returned to Japan and was so involved in so many things that it
was difficult for me to start research on asymmetric synthesis.
Prof. H. B. Kagan and Dr. Knowles advanced their research into asymmetric
hydrogenation and Monsanto Co. successfully developed the industrial
synthesis of L-DOPA. (DOPA = 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine)
The structure of DOPA. L-DOPA is the left-handed enantiomer.
was unable, however, to even start my research along these lines.
Many chemists thought that there was not much left to be investigated
in the field of asymmetric hydrogenation, but it turned out in contrast
that the study had only just begun.
When I started my research on asymmetric hydrogenation, I made up
my mind to achieve a perfect asymmetric synthesis. For this purpose
I chose a compound called BINAP. (BINAP = 2,2'-bis(diphenylphosphino)-1,1'-binaphthyl)
I was enchanted by the beauty of the structure of BINAP. Any chemist
can appreciate its beauty if one draws its structure.
Indeed. We can say that splendid functions come from beautiful structures.
I believe so. The dictum of the "Bauhaus" movement of
Germany tells the truth. "The beauty of that molecule is brilliant".
I started research on this molecule from 1974. We encountered a
series of difficulties, and many Japanese and foreign chemists withdrew
from such study. In 1980, we finally managed to publish a paper
on the asymmetric synthesis of amino acids based on the BINAP chemistry.
One of my coworkers on this project was the late Prof. Hidemasa
Takaya who was at the Institute of Molecular Science and Kyoto University.
Sadly, he passed away in 1994 while he was on a lecture tour in
The structure of BINAP.
as we continued the study, it became clear that the complex of rhodium
(Rh) and BINAP as catalyst was the worst possible combination in
view of the reaction mechanism. The result looked nice since nearly
a 100 % enantiomeric excess was obtained. However, this result was
beside the point as Prof. J. Halpern pointed out. The hydrogenation
reaction proceeded via complexes between the BINAP-Rh catalyst and
an alkene substrate. Two equilibrating intermediates were formed;
one was the major, favored complex and the other a minor isomer.
The point is that the minor intermediate was more reactive and gave
the desired enantiomeric isomer, whereas the major complex was less
reactive to result in the wrong enantiomeric product. BINAP is very
selective, and only the main complex could be observed using NMR.
This complex was, however, not very reactive, and its minor isomer,
which was not detectable by NMR, was active. This meant that a very
strict control of the reaction condition was required to form the
necessary minor complex. How you could form in sufficient quantity
a compound which was hardly detectable? The suitable reaction condition
was obtainable only with a very dilute solution and under a reduced
pressure. Two years were necessary to find that appropriate reaction
Nevertheless, the BINAP-Rh complex became famous not because of
asymmetric hydrogenation, but because of its successful application
to the asymmetric synthesis of menthol which was carried out in
a joint collaboration with Prof. Otsuka's group (Osaka University)
and Takasago International Corporation.
The turning point which allowed us to conquer the difficulty involved
in the asymmetric hydrogenation was achieved when we changed the
metal from Rh to ruthenium (Ru). With the aid of this new complex,
the asymmetric hydrogenation of a variety of alkenes became possible,
and a new dimension to asymmetric hydrogenation opened up. It was
1986 when the first report of that attempt was published. More than
ten years had passed since the synthesis of L-DOPA by Monsanto Co.,
but our findings opened up a whole new dimension to the study of
asymmetric hydrogenation. At present, the BINAP-Ru complex has been
employed in numerous fields of study. It is now possible to asymmetrically
hydrogenate a variety of C=C and C=O bonds, and the technique has
been widely applied to industrial synthesis of fine chemicals and
pharmaceutical drugs. The key was the unique reaction fields provided
Was the competition hard?
Not necessarily. The essence of research is how to reply to the
questions cast by chemistry. Hence I did not care at all about competition
with other chemists.
Anyway, you solved the problem successfully. How did you achieve
There were two problems to be solved in asymmetric hydrogenation.
One was how to achieve high ratios of (+)-enantiomer to (-)-enantiomer
as close as possible to 100:0. This could be solved by designing
the shape of the catalyst. This success attracted considerable attention.
The second problem was more important. How could one make the reaction
rate higher; in other words, how could the activation energy of
the reaction be lowered? The catalytic reaction is multi-step in
general. Which step should be accelerated? The prediction was very
difficult and not all chemists could do that. One has to use insight
to "see" what could not be seen by experiments. Without
belief supported by rationality one could not achieve that.
Not many chemists have attempted to solve rationally such a problem.
People tend to rely upon luck! There are many chemists in this field
who are satisfied with imitating or modifying what has been discovered
by other pionieers. In this regards, the competition with myself,
or rather, with nature or the system of chemistry, was severe. I
hardly paid any attention to competition with other chemists, but
rather I relied upon my belief, and continued study, always thinking
of a way to prove my hypothesis. This is most amusing!
4 The characteristic asymmetric structure of BINAP is due
to the twist of two naphthalene rings from the coplanar structure.
For simplicity, the Kekulé structure (a) and a molecular
model (b) of binaphthyl, which consists of two naphthalene rings.
The Kekulé structure seems to indicate that the molecule
has a planar structure. In fact, two naphthalene rings are largely
twisted because of the repulsion between two hydrogen atoms indicated
by arrows. A pair of enantiomers will be obtained depending on
whether the twist is clockwise or anti-clockwise. In the case
of the BINAP-Rh complex, the angle of twist is 74.4o.
What we have heard is really very valuable and useful for young
people. The way you carry out research seems to have been influenced
by the training you had received in Kyoto University concerning
your research on reactive intermediates.
By the way, how did you come to change the metal you used for the
It was already discovered by Wilkinson and others that Ru as well
as Rh could cleave hydrogen molecules and might be suitable for
the hydrogenation catalyst. Famous chemists such as Kagan and Knowles
had already obtained excellent results using Rh catalysts. Hence
many chemists were tempted by these findings to study Rh.
Science itself is objective. The research is done, however, by scientists.
I have understood over a long period of study that research is strongly
influenced by the mindset of scientists.
Changes over time to catalysts used in asymmetric hydrogenation.
All these catalysts are useful depending on the structures of
Can you tell us about some lessons you have learned over your long
research career that might be helpful to young people.
After more than thirty years' studying hydrogenation, I realized
that "fact is the enemy of truth". This is the dialog
of Don Quixote in the musical "Man of La Mancha" written
by Dale Wasserman. Facts are valid only under limited conditions
while the truth is something general that is behind the facts. The
facts known when we initiated the study of hydrogenation were scientifically
correct at that time, but it was only a very small part of the world
of asymmetric hydrogenation. The truth about asymmetric hydrogenation
is very deep and expansive.
What chemists in the 1970s were doing was something like a "dot".
I felt I could make that "dot" into a "line".
Yet it remains as a line. The principles and possibilities of chemistry
might be extended to a "plane" or even to a three-dimensional
world. Facts should be respected as facts, but we should not just
accept facts which are limiting and thereby overlook the great truth
behind facts. Otherwise development of science will be retarded.
You should consider alternative possibilities and think carefully
about your work.
This is really the crucial point. We tend to be satisfied when we
feel we have identified the facts. It is difficult to go on further
from this point.
By the way, there is a worldwide concern that young people are not
interested in science in general, and in chemistry in particular.
Can you provide a personal message for aspiring chemists?
The world of science will expand infinitely. However, scientific
research today tends to be too special and fragmental. What is needed
of science is 'generality'; that all fields are combined into one
universal science. So far scientists have not been particularly
eager for this. Scientists must have a wider view of nature. As
I have said before, scientists must make a line from a point, expand
to a plane from a line and then design and construct a space. Chemistry
is a science of matter and is the basis of modern civilization.
Generality is particularly important for chemistry.
I like to advise young people that though the role of chemistry
is the synthesis of materials, it should not remain its only role.
Chemistry should open new fields or create new fields. There have
been a large number of scientific/technological developments across
many fields of science. In chemistry, technical advances that have
had large ripple effects did not merely involve the synthesis of
materials, but the creation of new fields of thought.
Sure, the synthesis of matter is important, but chemists should
consider how new materials affect our society. If chemistry is satisfied
simply with the synthesis of materials, then chemistry will be subordinate
to other technologies, which would indeed be a pity!
The National Academy of Engineering (USA) ranked the 20th century
as the century of technological innovation, and selected twenty
great technological achievements. The greatest innovation they considered
to be electricity, the others being automobiles, airplanes, water
supply, electronics, radio and television, mechanization of agriculture,
computers, telephones, air-conditioning and freezing, highways,
space ships, the Internet, imaging, electrification of housework,
medicine, petroleum and petroleum chemistry, laser and optical fibers,
atomic power and high-functional materials.
The list clearly indicates the great contribution of chemistry.
We can also see that most of these items are innovations of new
fields when considered as social technologies. Cellular phones provide
a good example. These are composites of materials, but create an
innovation and change society. It is important to carry out research
with such an idea in view, and to design the system for research.
I am afraid that it is rather difficult, under the present educational
system, for young people to grow up with such a wide perspective.
Perhaps you have some advice for schoolteachers that might be useful.
I expect teachers will understand the reason why human beings devote
time to science, and convey this point to their students. Scientists
devote themselves to science not because of bread, but because science
will bring them spiritual fulfillment.
I was enchanted by the beauty of the logic of science, and have
tried to do what is important and fundamental. I also expect that
if the results of my study will be useful to many fields of science,
and furthermore, to society, then I should be pleased. Basically
I did science for the sake of spiritual fulfillment and the realization
of my hopes. To achieve this, both sensibility and intelligence
are necessary. I hope people will cultivate these virtues when they
6 The telephone card produced in tribute to the Nobel Prize
awarded to Prof. Noyori. He loved the beautiful structure of BINAP.
motto is "Research should be fresh, simple and clear."
I would advise young people to consider the way to promote science
in the right direction, and tackle problems as legitimate and fundamental
The challenge to solve legitimate and fundamental problems is indeed
a challenge to create a new field!
From my forty years' experience as a researcher, I learned that
a research project has its own lifetime. In most cases this is from
twenty to thirty years. A new jump, making the results obtained
thus far as the foundation for further expansion, is required when
the project is fully grown.
I hope young people will try to find a project which will be widely
developed and open a new field. If young people in their late twenties
or early thirties could find such a project, they will become the
core researchers in this field after twenty or thirty years. In
this regard, it is not advisable to choose currently popular topics
as your project. This is not interesting, anyway.
Noyori was enthusiastic about speaking with us for this interview
series which has been put together for the benefit of young chemists.
you tackle with a new project, at first you will be in a minority
group. Originality tends to be a lonely existence. I hope young
people will not fear loneliness. Rather, I hope they will be proud
of it. There seems to be a kind of misunderstanding of the meaning
of democracy; thus it tends to be accepted that the majority is
mighty and correct while the minority is wrong. People tend to belong
to the majority because it is safer. Such a tendency is by all means
not good for science.
I hope that science teachers appreciate the wonder of science and
teach it to children. A textbook is something like a jewel box.
Teachers should master the textbooks and convey this inspiration.
There seems to be an increase in the number of high school teachers
who have studied at graduate school. Such teachers have practical
experience of research and can tell lively stories of their own
experiences to students.
Indeed, it is most important that teachers who have learned the
wonder of science by themselves will share their experiences with
students. One of the reasons why science is not so popular among
young people is that science is treated much too objectively, which
ends in disregard of the people involved. Humans are interested
in humans. Einstein is an overwhelmingly famous scholar. Many people
are enchanted by him not only because of his great scientific achievement
but also because of his unique personality and physical features.
Scientific research is by all means human. I hope teachers will
tell students about this aspect of science. One of the reasons for
the lack of popularity of science is "the absence of humanity",
at least in Japan. There are many people who like literature but
do not like science. However, few people do not like literature.
Most scientists like literature probably because human beings are
always involved. I hope teachers who have good memories of research
will make this point to their students.
Finally, can you send a message to young people who will read the
transcript of this interview?
So far scientists have pursued the truth about nature while engineers
have solved practical problems faced by society. Hereafter scientists
are expected to not only have specific abilities related to their
research, but also have an ability to foretell the trends of future
society. Both teachers and students should know and understand this
point. The crucial point is to create and maintain a sustainable
society for our offspring. Science and technology must contribute
Thank you very much for your valuable comments.