News Release

CHF to present 2009 Othmer Gold Medal to Ahmed Zewail

Nobel laureate, creator of femtochemistry, global speaker and advocate for science education will be honored at Heritage Day 2009, a full-day ceremony beginning with the 12th annual presentation of the Othmer Gold Medal

Grant and Award Announcement

Chemical Heritage Foundation

PHILADELPHIA, PA—27 January 2009—The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) has named Ahmed Zewail, Nobel laureate in chemistry (1999), to receive the 2009 Othmer Gold Medal. The award ceremony and the annual Othmer Gold Medal luncheon will open the seventh annual Heritage Day on Thursday, 14 May 2009. This full day of awards and honors begins with the 12th annual Othmer Gold Medal luncheon.

"For the past century, the greatest chemists have speculated on reaction mechanisms—just what happens when molecules make and break bonds," said Thomas R. Tritton, president and CEO of CHF. "Ahmed Zewail moved beyond speculation by inventing the laser-based tools that allow chemists to study reactions in real time—small fractions of a trillionth of a second. In addition to creating the field of femtochemistry, he is a tireless advocate for science education for the entire world—working and speaking on every continent."

Zewail received the Nobel Prize in 1999 for showing that it is possible with ultrarapid laser technique to see how atoms in a molecule move during a chemical reaction. A pioneer in chemical physics, Ahmed Zewail's work helped create the new field of femtochemistry, the study of matter on the femtosecond (10-15 second) timescale, which makes it possible to observe atoms in motion and the transition states of chemical transformations. The primary goal of his research since has been in the development of the field of four-dimensional (4D) Electron Microscopy for space-time visualization of materials and biological functions. Zewail is also devoted to enhancing public awareness of the value of fundamental research and helping populations in developing nations through the promotion of science and technology. He is the third Egyptian-born recipient of the Nobel prize, and the first to receive a Nobel in science.

About Ahmed Zewail

Zewail completed his early education in Egypt and received B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry from Alexandria University. He obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1976 he joined the faculty at the California Institute of Technology, where he is now the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry, professor of physics, and director of the Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology.

In the late 1980s, Zewail developed a method for viewing the motion of atoms and molecules based on new laser technology that produced light flashes just tens of femtoseconds in duration. Many had thought it impossible to study the events that constitute a chemical reaction, but Zewail's discovery enabled scientists to gain more insight into and control over a reaction's outcome. For his studies using femtosecond spectroscopy, Zewail received the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Zewail has received numerous other awards and honors, including the Albert Einstein World Award of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, the Robert A. Welch Award, the Leonardo da Vinci Award, the Wolf Prize, the King Faisal Prize, and the Order of the Grand Collar of the Nile. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; the American Philosophical Society; the American Academy of Achievement; the European Academy of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities; the Royal Society of London; the French Academy; the Russian Academy; the Pontifical Academy; and the Royal Swedish Academy of the Sciences. He has received Honorary Degrees from 33 universities around the world.


About the Othmer Gold Medal

The Chemical Heritage Foundation established the Othmer Gold Medal in 1997 to honor outstanding individuals who have made multifaceted contributions to our chemical and scientific heritage through outstanding activity in such areas as innovation, entrepreneurship, research, education, public understanding, legislation, or philanthropy. Previous honorees are John D. Baldeschwieler, Arnold O. Beckman, Ronald C. D. Breslow, Thomas Cech, Carl Djerassi, Mary Lowe Good, George S. Hammond, Jon M. Huntsman, Ralph Landau, Robert S. Langer, Yuan Tse Lee, Gordon E. Moore, P. Roy Vagelos, and James D. Watson.

About the Chemical Heritage Foundation

The Chemical Heritage Foundation serves the community of the chemical and molecular sciences, and the wider public, by treasuring the past, educating the present, and inspiring the future. CHF carries out a program of outreach and interpretation in order to advance an understanding of the role of the chemical and molecular sciences, technologies, and industries in shaping society; maintains a world-class collection of materials that document the history and heritage of the chemical and molecular sciences, technologies, and industries; and encourages research in its collections.

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