Engraved in History

Ahmed Zewail and the femtochemistry

Ahmed Zewail  and the femtochemistry


Ahmed Zewail … and the femtochemistry


Born on February 26, 1946 in Damanhour, Egypt, Ahmad Zewail was 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. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley.

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. Ahmed Zewail is winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on femtochemistry.

Ahmed Zewail is married to Dr. Dima Al-Faham, daughter of Syrian Scholar Shaker Al-Faham, the former chairman of Arabic language Institute.



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 ultra short laser flashes), the technique allows the description of reactions on very short time scales - short enough to analyze transition states in selected chemical reactions.

Knowing the mechanism of chemical reactions also helps in supervising them to avoid undesired reactions. By using the femtoseconds technology we’re now able to see the movement of atoms via the ultra short laser flashes.


Prized and awards

¬ Order of Merit, first class (Sciences & Arts), from President Mubarak (1995).

¬ Benjamin Franklin Medal, Franklin Institute, USA (1998).

¬ Egypt Postage Stamps, with Portrait (1998); the Fourth Pyramid (1999).

¬ King Faisal International Prize in Science (1989).

¬ Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry (1997).

¬ Leonardo Da Vinci Award of Excellence, France (1995).

¬ Herbert P. Broida Prize, American Physical Society (1995).

¬ Universita di Roma "La Sapienza", Italy (2000):

¬ President Barack Obama's Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).



¬ A Trip across Time

¬ The Road to Nobel

¬ The Age of Science (2005)

¬ The Time (2007)

¬ The Dialogue of Civilization (2007)





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