A proud day for Israel: Israeli scientist wins Nobel Prize for Chemistry

Prof. Dan. Shechtman

Prof. Dan. Shechtman, winner of 2011 Nobel Prize for Chemistry

Mazal tov and kol hakavod Prof. Dan Schechtman on winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Fresh off Wednesday’s announcement that he will receive the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the Technion’s Dan Shechtman was forthcoming in sharing the honor. “I think this is a great day for me, of course, but also a great day for the country,” he said at a press conference.

Shechtman won the prize for discovering quasicrystals, which have non-repeating patterns the committee described as “fascinating mosaics of the Arabic world reproduced at the level of atoms.”

Prior to his discovery, crystals were thought to only have repeating patterns. The controversy of his finding was so great that Shechtman was asked, at one point, to leave his research group. His research, ultimately, prevailed, using Arabic mosaic patterns, which rely on mathematical non-repeating patterns, as a model.

I find it fascinating that in a profession such as academic research, which should express the epitome of open-mindedness, Prof. Shechtman’s discovery was so startling that he was asked to leave his research group. One could almost compare this to historical legends such as Copernicus and Galileo being excommunicated by the church for their astronomical discoveries. Luckily, this being the 21st century and not the Middle Ages,  Prof. Shechtman won the day – and the prize.

“The main lesson I learned over time is that a good scientist is a humble scientist, not one who is 100 percent sure,” Shechtman said.

You may be humble Prof. Shechtman, but we are proud. May Israel continue to produce scientists and academics with your qualities.

Dan Shechtman continues Israel’s impressive tradition of producing Nobel laureates: he is our 10th Nobel laureate:

In 2009, Israeli scientist Ada Yonath was awarded the Nobel Chemistry Prize for showing how ribosomes function, work that has important implications for antibiotics.

Before Yonath eight Israelis have won the prestigious prize: Shmuel Yosef Agnon (Literature); Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres (Peace); Avram Hershko, Aaron Ciechanover  (Chemistry); Robert Aumann and Daniel Kahneman (Economics).

Update: Prof. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has a great post about Prof.  Shechtman and his discovery, including a very interesting and entertaining video clip.

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15 Responses to A proud day for Israel: Israeli scientist wins Nobel Prize for Chemistry

  1. Judypt says:

    Wwll done Professor , so encouraging to hear him talk on the video and also on the news about his great discovery and also give credit to co workers who believed in his theories. I bet the research outfit that threw him out because they couldnt understand his concept are kicking themselves as they cant bask in his reflected glory.By the way, how many Nobel prizes have the millions of Arabs won?

  2. Earl says:

    @ Judypt:

    By the way, how many Nobel prizes have the millions of Arabs won?

    Exactly my immediate thoughts. Israel 10 (of a population of five million); Arabs 0 (of a population of 350 million). Not bad for “that shitty little country”.

    Allah-u Akhbar, eh?

  3. floranista says:

    What an inspiring story, annie! I’m so happy for the professor and for Israel!

    I have to say my first reaction to your thread title was astonishment that the Nobel committee had selected him.

    Would you tell me what “kol hakavod” means?

    • anneinpt says:

      Hi florrie, sorry, I should have put the translation in brackets or used marginalia. Kol Hakavod means “kudos”. Literally it means “all honour” or “all credit”.

      Heh. Just remembered. I have the translation in my glossary page in the top menu. 🙂

    • anneinpt says:

      You don’t need to be so astonished at the Nobel Committee. This is Israel’s 10th Nobel Prize already. They obviously know quality when they see it!

      • floranista says:

        Oh yes, I know you’ve won before! That’s heartening. My comments reflected my first thought…the Nobel committee choosing to award Al Gore over Irena Sendler….

  4. Paddy says:

    It’s a real bl…y scandal that the Arabs haven’t won a Nobel Prize since poor ole
    Arafat got it many years ago – of course before he pegged out. The Arabs are
    so clever, and really deserve a Prize. No-one can torture, kidnap, murrder etc
    like they can. For them it’s not only an art, but also a profession for which they
    get a lot of loot from Arab States like Saudi, Egypt, Turkey, the Taliban, etc.,
    and they make a good living out of it. So shouldn’t they be recommended for the
    Nobel Prize ? I think definitely.

    • anneinpt says:

      You could call it the Ignoble Prize and they’d sweep all the categories every year.

      If you compare Jews (as opposed to Israelis) to Muslims, the difference is much much greater. Take a look at this list: Nobel prize winners: Jews vs. Muslims.

      Not that I’m bragging or anything… 🙂

      • Andrea says:

        Sorry Anne, I do apologize but I am not fully convinced. If you make the same confrontation between askenazy and sefardim maybe – but i am not sure , please check – result would be the same.

        The evidence is that western culture has a more developed scientific background.

        • anneinpt says:

          It’s certainly true that the Western culture has helped to develop a more advanced scientific background. I hadn’t thought of the difference between Ashkenazim and Sefardim though. That’s an interesting point I suppose we should research it somehow.

          • Andrea says:

            No Anne I honestly think we should not because relying on list like the one you attached is not a good start to reach valid assumption.
            Consider this different point reading the same list : how many male won the Nobel prize and how many women ? The answer is clear : men won more then women but what does it mean ? men are more intelligent ?
            Personally this could suit me fine but maybe is not the right way to analyze such a complicated issue – the same when we talk about Jews and Arabs

            • cba says:

              Andrea, you make some excellent points. After all, the biological father of the late Steve Jobs was an Arab, and at least SOME of his talents must have come from him. Nevertheless, he was adopted by a couple in California, and upbringing certainly must have contributed materially to his significant achievements.

  5. floranista says:

    Oh gosh, I hadn’t even noticed the Glossary link, that’s very helpful!

  6. Andrea says:

    I am happy for Israel because is the evidence that a strong democracy produces remarkable progress in scientific field as well.

    Confrontation with Arabs is tempting but I would avoid reaching other conclusions than freedom helps progress more than dispotism .

    After all Germany had many Nobel prizes, Italy one of the biggest artistic heritage but this did not prevent either nazism or fascism from taking power.

    but once more….bravo Israele

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