Portrait of Ahmed Hassan Zewail
|Born||Ahmed Hassan Zewail
February 26, 1946
|Institutions||California Institute of Technology|
|Alma mater||University of Alexandria, University of Pennsylvania|
|Notable awards||Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1999)
The Franklin Medal (USA) (1998)
Wolf Prize (Israel) (1993)
Priestley Medal (USA) (2011)
Davy Medal (2011)
Ahmed Hassan Zewail (Arabic: أحمد حسن زويل, IPA: [ˈæħmæd ˈħæsæn zeˈweːl]; born February 26, 1946) is an Egyptian scientist, known as the "father of femtochemistry", he won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on femtochemistry and became the first Egyptian scientist who won Nobel Prize in a scientific field. He is the Linus Pauling Chair Professor Chemistry, Professor of Physics and the director of the Physical Biology Centre for the Ultrafast Science and Technology (UST) at the California Institute of Technology.
Birth and education
Ahmed Hassan Zewail, was born on February 26, 1946 in Damanhour, Egypt and was raised in Alexandria. His father Hassan assembled bicycles and motorcycles and later became a government official. His parents remained married for 50 years, until Hassan died on October 22, 1992.
He received a bachelor's and an MS degree from the University of Alexandria before moving from Egypt to the United States to complete his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania with advisor Robin Hochstrasser. While at the University of Alexandria he met his wife, Mervat. She accompanied him to the University of Pennsylvania. At the university, Ahmed completed his Ph.D. and they had their first child. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley with advisor Charles B. Harris.
After some post doctorate work at UC-Berkeley, he was awarded a faculty appointment at Caltech in 1976, where he has remained since, and in 1990, he was made the first Linus Pauling Chair in Chemical Physics. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1982.
Zewail has been nominated and will participate in President Barack Obama's Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), an advisory group of the nation's leading scientists and engineers to advise the President and Vice President and formulate policy in the areas of science, technology, and innovation.
Zewail's key work has been as a pioneer of femtochemistry—i.e. the study of chemical reactions across femtoseconds. Using a rapid ultrafast laser technique (consisting of ultrashort laser flashes), the technique allows the description of reactions on very short time scales - short enough to analyse transition states in selected chemical reactions.
His work started with the question, how fast did the energy within an isolated large molecule like naphthalene redistribute among all the atomic motions? They had to build an apparatus with a vacuum chamber for molecules coming out of the source as a collimated beam at supersonic speed. The challenge was to build an ultrafast laser to be used with the molecular beam. The beam and the picosecond laser system were interfaced. The goal of the project began as wanting to directly measure the rate of vibrational-energy redistribution for an isolated molecule using the picosecond laser.
They wanted to see the process from birth to death of a molecule. In this experiment the isolated anthracene molecule was unexpected and contrary to popular wisdom. During redistribution the population was oscillating coherently back and forth. There was no decay, but there was rebirth and all molecules moved coherently in a phase. In a large molecule, each vibrational motion is like a pendulum, but there are many motions because a molecules has many atoms. If the motions were not coherent, the observation would have been much different.
The results of this experiment revealed the significance of coherence and its existence in complex molecular systems. The finding of coherence were significant because it showed that through the expected chaotic motions in molecules, ordered motion can be found, despite the presence of a "heat sink", which can destroy coherence and drain energy. Coherence in molecules had not been observed before not because of a lack of coherence, but because of a lack of proper probes. In the anthracene experiments, time and energy resolutions were introduced and correlated.
Though Zewail continued studies on vibrational-energy redistributions, he started new studies on shorter time resolutions for molecules showing different chemical processes and rotational motions.
In 1999, Zewail became the third Egyptian national to receive the Nobel Prize, following Egyptian president Anwar Al-Sadat (1978 in Peace), Naguib Mahfouz (1988 in Literature). Mohamed ElBaradei followed him (2005 in peace). Other international awards include the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (1993) awarded to him by the Wolf Foundation, the Tolman Medal (1997), the Robert A. Welch Award (1997), the Priestley Medal from the American Chemical Society and Davy Medal from the Royal Society in 2011. In 1999, he received Egypt's highest state honor, the Grand Collar of the Nile.
Zewail was awarded an honorary doctorate by Lund University in Sweden in May 2003 and is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Cambridge University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Science in 2006. In October 2006, Zewail received the Albert Einstein World Award of Science for his pioneering development of the new field femtoscience and for his seminal contributions to the revolutionary discipline of physical biology, creating new ways for better understanding the functional behavior of biological systems by directly visualizing them in the four dimensions of space and time. In May 2008, Zewail received an honorary doctorate from Complutense University of Madrid. In February, 2009, Zewail was awarded an honorary doctorate in arts and sciences by the University of Jordan. In May 2010, he received a Doctor of Humane Letters from Southwestern University. in October/2011 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in science from the University of Glasgow, UK  His students include scientists like Martin Gruebele
Zewail is married, and has four children. He also has won the King Faisal award in 1989.
In June 4, 2009 speech at Cairo University, US President Barack Obama announced a new Science Envoy program as part of a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." In January 2010, Ahmed Zewail, Elias Zerhouni, and Bruce Alberts became the first US science envoys to Islam, visiting Muslim-majority countries from North Africa to Southeast Asia.
When asked about rumors that he might contest the 2011 Egyptian presidential election, Ahmed Zewail said: "I am a frank man... I have no political ambition, as I have stressed repeatedly that I only want to serve Egypt in the field of science and die as a scientist."
During the 2011 Egyptian protests he announced his return to the country. Zewail said that he would join a committee for constitutional reform alongside Ayman Nour, Mubarak's rival at the 2005 presidential elections and a leading lawyer. Zewail was later mentioned as a respected figure working as an intermediary between the military regime ruling after Mubarak's resignation, and revolutionary youth groups such as the April 6 Youth Movement and young supporters of Mohamed ElBaradei.
- Advances in Laser Spectroscopy I, ed. A. H. Zewail, SPIE, Bellingham, 1977
- Advances in Laser Chemistry, ed. A. H. Zewail, Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg, 1978
- Photochemistry and Photobiology, Vols. 1 and 2, ed. A. H. Zewail, Harwood Academic, London, 1983
- Ultrafast Phenomena VII, eds. C. B. Harris, E. P. Ippen, G. A. Mourou and A. H. Zewail, Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg, 1990
- The Chemical Bond: Structure and Dynamics, ed. A. H. Zewail, Academic Press, Boston, 1992
- Ultrafast Phenomena VIII, eds. J.-L. Martin, A. Migus, G. A. Mourou, and A. H. Zewail, Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg, 1993
- Ultrafast Phenomena IX, eds.
- Age of Science (autobiography)
- Physical Biology: From Atoms to Medicine, ed. A. H. Zewail, Imperial College Press, London, 2008
- 4D Electron Microscopy, ed. A. H. Zewail, Imperial College Press, London, 2009
- Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry (editor)
- Voyage Through Time, ed. Ahmed Zewail, 2002
- The Physical Biology Centre for the Ultrafast Science and Technology (UST) website.
- Zewail, Ahmed (2002). Voyage Through Time. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. p. 287.
- Zewail, Ahmed. "Autobiography". Nobelprize.org. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
- "President Obama Announces Members of Science and Technology Advisory Council". The White House. Archived from the original on 12 February 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
- "Press Release: The 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry". Nobelprize.org. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
- "Zewail Wins 2011 Priestley Medal", Chemical & Engineering News, p 5, June 21, 2010.
- "Royal Society announces 2011 Copley Medal recipient". The Royal Society. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
- "Albert Einstein World Award of Science 2006". Retrieved August 13, 2013.
- Kheetan, Thameen (26 February 2009). "Egyptian Nobel laureate calls for ‘scientific renaissance’ in Arab world". Jordan Times. Retrieved 2009-02-28.
- Zewail: I have no political ambitions .. I would like service of Egypt a scientist only
- ANSAmed (1 February 2011). "EGYPT: ZEWAIL RETURNS, CREDIBLE POST-MUBARAK FIGURE". ANSAmed. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
- Fahim, Kareem; Kirkpatrick, David D. (February 12, 2011). "Military Offers Assurances to Egypt and Neighbors". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 13 February 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
- Ahmed Zewail on Twitter
- Ahmad Zewail's Caltech website
- Zewail Nobel Prize lecture
- Article about Zewail