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Ahmed H. Zewail, Ph.D. - 2012

Ahmed H. Zewail, Ph.D. - 2012

Villanova University has named Ahmed H. Zewail, PhD, the recipient of its 2012 Villanova University Mendel Medal, for his pioneering developments in the sciences as well as his dedication to the promotion of education and partnership for world peace. Dr. Zewail was the sole recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking developments in femtoscience, making possible observations of atomic motions during molecular transformations in femtosecond, a millionth of a billionth of a second. He is currently the Linus Pauling Chair Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and Director of the Moore Foundation’s Center for Physical Biology at CalTech.

The Mendel Medal was established in 1928 by the Board of Trustees of Villanova University and recalls the scientific achievements of the Rev. Gregor Johann Mendel, OSA, a 19th century Augustinian friar and scientist who discovered the celebrated laws of heredity which now bear his name. Villanova is one of only two Augustinian Catholic institutions of higher education in the country. The Mendel Medal is awarded to outstanding contemporary scientists in recognition of both their scientific accomplishments and religious convictions.

“The Mendel Medal was inaugurated in a time of social ferment, during which some religious people perceived Darwin’s theory of evolution as undermining traditional values,” said the Rev. Kail C. Ellis, OSA, PhD, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “In stipulating that the Mendel Medal was to be awarded to outstanding scientists who ‘have given practical demonstration of the fact that between true science and true religion, there is no real conflict,’ Villanova affirmed and continues to affirm the sacred connections between science and religion, using as its emblem the great Augustinian scientist Gregor Mendel.

“Dr. Zewail epitomizes the purpose of the Mendel Medal,” added Fr. Ellis. “He has publicly advocated for a more peaceful and just world that can be achieved through investments in education and economic development, and with respect for faith and religion.” 

The Mendel Medal was first awarded in 1929 and given annually until 1943. Between 1946 and 1968, the Medal was awarded eight times. After a 25-year hiatus, it was reestablished in 1992 as part of Villanova University’s Sesquicentennial Celebrations. Recipients have included Nobel Laureates, outstanding medical researchers, pioneers in physics, astrophysics and chemistry, and noted scientist-theologians.

Dr. Zewail will deliver the 2012 Mendel Medal Lecture, “Revolutions in Science and Society,” on Friday, Sept. 7, at 2 p.m. in the Villanova Room of the Connelly Center, located on the campus of Villanova University. The event is free and open to the public.

About Ahmed H. Zewail, PhD
Dr. Zewail has garnered honors from around the globe for his contributions to science and for his public service, including the 1999 Nobel Prize. His groundbreaking developments in femtoscience have made possible observations of ephemeral molecular phenomena on the femtosecond time scale of atomic motion. More recently, he and his group have developed the field of 4D electron microscopy for the direct visualization of materials and biological behavior. In the four dimensions of space and time, both the structure and dynamics of nanomachines can be imaged, and the applications range from atoms to cells.

Dr. Zewail serves on President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and also as the President’s Science Envoy to the Middle East. Prior to CalTech, he served as the Director of the National Science Foundation’s Laboratory for Molecular Sciences (LMS) for 10 years.

Dr. Zewail’s biography, “Voyage Through Time” (and “Age of Science”) — published in 17 languages and editions — offers an exposé of his life, science and world affairs until the receipt of the Nobel Prize.

Forty Honorary Degrees in the sciences, arts, philosophy, law, medicine and humane letters have been conferred on Dr. Zewail, including those from Oxford, Cambridge, Peking, and Alexandria universities as well as the University of Pennsylvania. He has been decorated with Orders of State and Merit, including the Order of the Grand Collar of the Nile—Egypt’s highest state honor. He has received the Albert Einstein World Award, Benjamin Franklin Medal, Leonardo da Vinci Award, Robert A. Welch Award, Wolf Prize, King Faisal Prize, Othmer Gold Medal, and the Priestly Gold Medal. In addition, postage stamps have been issued in commemoration of his contributions to science and humanity.

Dr. Zewail is an elected member of academies and learned societies, including the American Philosophical Society, National Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of London, French Academy, Russian Academy, Chinese Academy and the Swedish Academy. Over the years, he has given public lectures on science and on the promotion of education and partnership for world peace, and continues to serve on national and international boards for academic, cultural and world affairs.