Born in Egypt’s Damanhur, Ahmed Hassan Zewail, commonly known as Ahmed Zewail, was a celebrated pioneering scientist. He held the Linus Pauling Chair as a professor in chemistry, and was the physical biology centre Director for Ultrafast Science and Technology at the prestigious California Institute of Technology. In 1999, the ‘Father of Femtochemistry,’ as he was often called, was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry, making him the first Egyptian and Arab to win a Nobel Prize in science. Dr. Zewail was the sole recipient of that prize for “showing that it is possible with rapid laser technique to study in slow motion how atoms in a molecule move during a chemical reaction.”
Today, on what would have been his 75th birthday, we take a look at his achievements, his life, and his unmatched breakthroughs for his work on the study of chemical reactions over immensely short time scales. Dr. Zewail was one of the most inspiring scientists of his time, with contributions in both science and public life.
During his lifetime, he published over 600 papers, 14 books, and established Zewail City of Science, an independent nonprofit organization. It is a comprehensive state-of-the-art city made for the sole purpose of education, research, and development. The city offers undergraduate and graduate programs in several fields, including medicine, science, and engineering.
Zewail held multiple honorary degrees in sciences, philosophy, law, among others as well. He was an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the European Academy, the Royal Society of London, the Royal Swedish Academy, the French Academy, the Russian Academy, the Chinese Academy, and the American Philosophical Society. In 2009, he was appointed to President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and was later selected as the first United States Science Envoy to the Middle East.