Caltech prof Zewail wins femtochemistry Nobel

Rohit Khare (
Tue, 12 Oct 1999 08:14:42 -0700

October 12, 1999

Zewail Wins Nobel for Chemistry

Filed at 9:41 a.m. EDT

By The Associated Press

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- An Egyptian-American scientist won the
Nobel Prize for chemistry today for demonstrating that a rapid laser
technique can observe the motion of atoms in a molecule as they occur
during a chemical reaction.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Ahmed H. Zewail of the
California Institute of Technology was being honored for a revolution
in chemistry through ``his pioneering investigation of fundamental
chemical reactions, using ultra-short laser flashes, on the time
scale on which the reactions actually occur.''

Hours earlier, Dutch scientists Gerardus 't Hooft and Martinus J.G.
Veltman won the 1999 Nobel Prize for physics for their theoretical
work on the structure and motion of subatomic particles.

The academy said Zewail's work in the late 1980s led to the birth of
femtochemistry, the use of high-speed cameras to monitor chemical
reactions at a scale of femtoseconds, or 0.000000000000001 second.

``We have reached the end of the road. No chemical reactions take
place faster than this,'' the academy said.

``We can now see the movements of individual atoms as we imagine
them. They are no longer invisible,'' the academy said.

Zewail, who holds both U.S. and Egyptian citizenship, has held the
Linus Pauling chair of chemical physics at Caltech since 1990.

The literature prize was awarded Thursday to German novelist Guenter
Grass. The medicine prize was awarded Monday to Dr. Guenter Blobel,
63, a German native and U.S. citizen, who discovered how proteins
find their rightful places in cells.

The economics prize winner is to be announced Wednesday in Stockholm
and the peace prize on Friday in Oslo, Norway.

The prizes, worth $960,000, are presented on Dec. 10, the anniversary
of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish industrialist and inventor
of dynamite who established the prizes.