In April, 6 months before the Nobel Committee’s announcement about the 2011 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Ha’aretz published an article about Danny Shechtman, who was awarded the prize, describing the scientist and the severe challenges he faced when he first figured out what was unknown at the time, which is that crystals can be ordered with pentagonal symmetry in contradiction with scientific tenets of the preceding 75 years. He was actually kicked out of his research group because this discovery was considered ridiculous. He persisted, however, and was eventually able to convince others. Today, the study of such crystals, quasicrystals, is a field in itself.
I strongly recommend reading this article, which includes the story of his discovery and the road he took to have the scientific community accept it.
Shechtman was born in Tel Aviv in 1941 and, like so many other Israeli scientists, had the opportunity to live and work in the United States. He chose to return to Israel and make his life there, working at the Technion. The Technion is, without question, one of the world’s great science learning institutions precisely because it is able to attract scientists of Shechtman’s caliber. This Nobel should give great pride to Israelis and their scientific community.
Here’s a video of Professor Dan Shechtman.