Professor Dan Shechtman of Haifa’s Technion University received the Nobel Prize in Chamistry at an awards ceremony and gala ball in Stockholm on Saturday evening. Sweden’s King Karl Gustav XVI awarded the honor.
Shechtman, who is Israel’s 10th Nobel Prize winner, was given the distinction because of his discovery of quasicrystals, non-repeating yet symmetric structures.
Dr. Sven Ledin of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm , who addressed Shechtman as he received the award, told him that his “discovery of quasicrystals has created a new branch of science.” “This is in itself of great importance, Ledin said. “ It has also given us a reminder of how little we know and perhaps given us some humility. That is a truly great achievement.”
Shechtman discovered quasicrystals in 1982, while on sabbatical in the United States. Because of their ability to be packed together in previously unknown ways, the discovery of quasicrystals has led to the development of exceptionally strong metals used in medicine and engineering, as well as protective coatings and metal alloys. Quasicrystals do not rust and have almost no surface friction.
In his acceptance speech, Shechtman said that while he is “the vanguard of the science of quasicrystals,” the field would not be so advanced without the many scientists he said are “enthusiastic” and “dedicated” to its development. He advised that “a humble scientist is a good scientist.”
“Science is the ultimate tool to reveal the laws of nature and the one word written on its banner is ‘Truth,” Shechtman said. “The laws of nature are neither good nor bad. It is the way in which we apply them to our world that makes the difference.”
Shechtman received congratulations from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose spokesman conveyed his well-wishes and pride in Shechtman’s accomplishment. During his weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu reasserted his happiness with the achievement, telling advisors that such discoveries and prizes will come with continued national investment in higher education.
Shechtman, born in Tel Aviv, is married to Dr. Tzipora Shechtman, Head of the Department of Counseling and Human Devlopment at the University of Haifa. Together they have four children, one of whom is a physicist, and three of whom are psychologists. Shechtman will receive €1 million as part of his award.