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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

And again: Israeli wins Nobel prize in Chemistry

Yet another Israeli - the third in recent years - has won a Nobel prize in Chemistry. The winner is Daniel Shechtman of the Technion. Shechtman is the tenth Israeli or Israeli-born scientist to win a Nobel Prize, and the third to win for chemistry.
Shechtman discovered quasicrystals, which have non-repeating patterns the committee described as "fascinating mosaics of the Arabic world reproduced at the level of atoms."

Prior to his discovery, crystals were thought to only have repeating patterns. The controversy of his finding was so great that Shechtman was asked, at one point, to leave his research group. His research, ultimately, prevailed, using Arabic mosaic patterns, which rely on mathematical non-repeating patterns, as a model.
Schechtman's discovery was made in 1982. Ironically, Israel Radio reports that Schechtman is actually a Physicist, and while it was widely believed he would eventually win a Nobel prize, it was expected to be in Physics and not in Chemistry.

YNet reports that the Technion is quite pleased.
Shechtman, 70, is a distinguished professor at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie congratulated Shechtman on his win.

"This is a day of celebration not just for the Technion but for the entire State of Israel. We are very excited. We always knew that Prof. Shechtman's discoveries changed the face of science, and it was clear to us that he would win the desired prize at some point. We are happy that it happened this year."

Lavie described Shechtman as a "very unique scientist."

"On the one hand his exceptional international status, but on the other hand he's one of the must beloved and modest people in the Technion. We heard of his win just like everyone else. The tension was high and within a few minutes the news of his win spread like wild fire," said Lavie.

Knesset Education Committee Chairman Alex Miller congratulated Shechtman as well.

"This win proves once more that the human capital is the most important strategic asset of the State of Israel. Investing in education and in qualitative and investigative higher learning not only results in economical and cultural growths but also brings great honor to Israel around the world."


Yoav Shechtman, Prof. Daniel Shechtman's son told Ynet that announcement had taken the family by surprise: "You don't know that you've won until the very last moment," he said. "It's a great joy, the family feels wonderful. We are delighted about it." An overwhelmed Shechtman told AP: "It feels wonderful."
This little tidbit will be of interest to at least one reader: Israel Radio reported that Schechtman's Bachelor's degree from the Technion was in Mechanical Engineering.


Reader Reuven K notes:
Back then, those who studied materials were part of the Mechanical Engineering faculty. The Technion only opened a separate Faculty of Materials Engineering in 1981. Even today, within Mechanical Engineering faculty there are those whose research is mostly in materials.

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