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.