Sunday, August 7, 2016

Ahmed Zewail (1946-2016): father of femtosecond chemistry

The New York Times has an obituary for Ahmed Zewail who died this week. He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work that used ultrafast lasers to probe the dynamics of chemical reactions and the associated potential energy surfaces. This is all standard today. However, before Zewail, many reaction mechanisms and the associated surfaces were just theoretical constructs and conjectures.
I often use the picture below from one of his papers, which I posted about years ago.

I also posted about a nice article about the future of chemical physics and a Nature column about the importance of basic science and how to cultivate it. His wisdom needs to be heeded.

The NYT obituary points out how after the Nobel, Zewail took on an admirable challenge that was greater than anything he had tackled in science: the promotion of scientific research and education in the Arab world, and particularly in his native Egypt. I really hope he will have a significant legacy there. In this vein, Margaret Warner has a nice tribute to Zewail on the PBS site.

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