Ahmed Zewail

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Ahmed Hassan Zewail (Arabic: أحمد حسن زويل‎) (born February 26, 1946 in Damanhour, Egypt) is an Egyptian-American scientist, and the winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on femtochemistry. He is the Linus Pauling Chair Professor Chemistry and Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology.


Birth and education

Ahmad Zewail was born on February 26, 1946 in Damanhour and raised in Disuq. He received bachelor's degree and 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 Dr. Robin Hochstrasser. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley with advisor Dr. Charles B. Harris.

Academic career

After some post doctorate work at UC-Berkeley, he was awarded a faculty appointment at Caltech in 1976, where he has remained since. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1982, and in 1990, he was made the first Linus Pauling Chair in Chemical Physics.

Dr. Zewail has been nominated and will participate in President Barack Obama's Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The council will talk about education, science, defense, energy, the economy, and technology.


Zewail's key work has been as the 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.

In 1999, Zewail became the third ethnic Egyptian to receive the Nobel Prize, following Egyptian president Anwar Al-Sadat (1978 in Peace) and Naguib Mahfouz (1988 in Literature). 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), and the Priestley Medal from the American Chemical Society in 2011.[1] In 1999, he received Egypt's highest state honor, the Grand Collar of the Nile.

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