Israeli chemist Shechtman wins Nobel Prize

By Jennifer Lipman, October 5, 2011
Daniel Shechtman

Daniel Shechtman

An Israeli scientist has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Daniel Shechtman was named as this year's recipient for "for the discovery of quasicrystals" in 1982

Prof Shechtman, who is a professor at the Technion Institute in Haifa, was born in Tel Aviv in 1941. He gained his PhD from the same institution in 1972 and carried out his research at its Wolfson Centre, which he is also the head of.

He has won both the Israel Prize and the Weizmann Science Award.

According to the Nobel Foundation, his work has "fundamentally altered how chemists conceive of solid matter".

"Contrary to the previous belief that atoms were packed inside crystals in symmetrical patterns, Shechtman showed that the atoms in a crystal could be packed in a pattern that could not be repeated," said the judges.

"His discovery was extremely controversial," they added. Prof Shechtman was even asked to leave his research group at one point.

"However, his battle eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter."

Prof Shechtman will receive the £945 thousand prize at a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10. His win comes two years after another Israeli, Ada Yonath, won the same prize.

Daniel Peltz, chairman of the British Technion Society said he was delighted to hear that the professor's work had been "recognised in this high profile manner".

"It is a testament to the groundbreaking research carried out at the Technion," he said. "The potential to use quasicrystals in everyday products is extremely exciting."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Prof Shechtman to congratulate him. "Every Israeli is happy today and every Jew in the world is proud," he said. President Shimon Peres told him: "Your win is promising and gives hope. You are the crown jewel.

"You provide hope and serve as an example to the younger generation. You demonstrate that a thinking person who is hardworking and brave can make groundbreaking scientific discoveries. On behalf of the state of Israel I would like to salute you."

Among this year's winners are North American scientists Adam Riess, awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics with two others for their study of how the universe is expanding, and Ralph Steinman, who died before his award for Medicine was made public.

Last updated: 5:23pm, October 5 2011