Egyptian-born American who won the Nobel Prize in 1999 for chemistry for work on viewing atoms in slow motion. He pioneered the high-speed laser camera to study the almost unbelievable fast events that unfold during a chemical reaction; the science known as femtochemistry.
Ahmed Hassan Zewail (Arabic: أحمد زويل) (born February 26, 1946) is an Egyptian chemist, and the winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on femtochemistry. Born in Damanhur (60 km south-east of Alexandria) and raised in Disuq, he received his first degrees from the University of Alexandria before moving to the United States to complete his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania under the supervision of Robin.M.Hochstrasser. After some postdoctorate work at UC Berkeley, he was awarded a faculty appointment at Caltech in 1976, where he has remained since. 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’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 at the atomic level.
In 1999, Zewail became the third Egyptian to receive the Nobel Prize, following Anwar Sadat (1978 in Peace) and Naguib Mahfouz (1988 in Literature). Other international awards have included the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (1993) and the Robert A. Welch Award (1997). In 1999 he received Egypt’s highest state honour, the Grand Collar of the Nile.