Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in Stockholm Saturday, becoming the tenth Israeli to be awarded the prize. The prize was awarded by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.
Shechtman, a professor at Haifa’s Technion Institute, received the prize, valued at approximately one million Euros for cutting-edge work he did during the 1980s in the field of crystallography (the study of crystals). The prize was given for his discovery of atom patterns called quasicrystals, chemical structures previously thought impossible.
Up until then, scientists had thought the atom patterns inside crystals had to repeat themselves. The Academy said Shechtman’s discovery in 1982 fundamentally changed the way chemists look at solid matter.
Shechtman studied aluminum alloys, and found that they didn’t behave in a way solid matter had previously been thought behave. As a result he discovered a completely new class of solids.
At first, Shechtman’s discovery was ridiculed by the scientific establishment, but as time went by, recognition of his work and its significance grew, especially after his results were duplicated by fellow scientists. Shechtman continued his work studying, among other things, the crystallization of diamonds and a new alloy of magnesium.
Israel has an impressive showing when it comes to Nobel winners, with 10 laureates in its 63-year history. Most recently, Israeli scientist Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute won the same Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2009, for her work on the ribosomes. Three Israeli politicians have also won the Nobel Prize for peace - Menachem Begin in 1978, and Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin in 1994.
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