Prof. Ahmed Zewail


Albert Einstein World Award of Science 2006
Field of Research:
Femtoscience and contributions to the revolutionary discipline of Physical Biology
Date: 28 October 2006
Place of Ceremony: Manuel M. Ponce Hall, Palace of Fine Arts
Host Institution: National Polytechnic Institute
Host Country: México City, México

The “Albert Einstein” World Award of Science has been established as a means of recognition and as an incentive to scientific and technological research and development. It takes into special consideration research that has brought true benefit and well- being to mankind.

This recognition is made by the members of the Interdisciplinary Committee of the World Cultural Council to Prof. Ahmed Zewail 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.

Prof. Ahmed Zewail’s contribution has literally changed the view of the dynamics of matter and created new femtoscience disciplines, with applications in many areas, including the potential for molecular control with atomic precision.

At the end of the 1980s, Prof. Zewail and his team performed a series of experiments that were to lead to the birth of a new research field. In 1999 Prof. Ahmed Zewail received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering development of femtoscience, making it possible to observe the movement of individual atoms in a femtosecond.

His achievements demonstrated how it is possible to follow atoms and molecules in “slow motion” during a chemical reaction in which chemical bonds are broken and new ones created. Prof. Zewail´s technique may be described as the world’s fastest camera.

Over the past seven years, Prof. Zewail has established a new field of research and founded the multi-disciplinary Center of Physical Biology at Caltech. This is a new integrated science of structure and dynamics, with the aim of deciphering the fundamental physics of chemical and biological behaviour, from atoms to cells. Prof Zewail is thus breaking ground at the interface of physics, chemistry and biology. The genesis of these accomplishments was his breakthrough development of 4D imaging, or visualization, of molecular and cellular systems, directly in the four dimensions of space and time, and this seminal work of ultrafast electron microscopy and diffraction has already been published.

On a humane level, Prof. Zewail’s contributions are equally impressive. He is renowned for his tireless efforts to help the less fortunate, for his determination to help his native country, Egypt, and region, for his public lectures on world affairs and for his endeavour to inspire young people in matters of science and technology as well as to put forward peaceful solutions to complex world problems. He is also fully involved with his own home institution, Caltech, and serves on many national and international boards and advisory committees.

Prof. Zewail has received honours and awards from around the globe. In 2001, he was featured in a B.B.C. documentary entitled The End of the Race against Time. Prof. Zewail holds 30 Honorary Degrees in the sciences, medicine, arts, law, philosophy and humane letters.

His work as a scientist and statesman will continue to inspire generations to come, not only because of his lasting scientific contributions but also for his legacy in helping humanity, reflecting the best in dialogue between East and West civilizations.