Nobel Laureate Dan Shechtman Born
Dan Shechtman. Photo: Technion–Israel Institute of Technology

January 24, 1941

Dan Shechtman, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, is born in Tel Aviv.

He earns his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in 1966, master’s in materials engineering in 1958 and doctorate in materials science in 1972, all from the Technion, where he begins teaching in 1975. He adds an appointment in 2004 to the faculty of Iowa State University, where he works five months a year.

During a sabbatical from 1981 to 1983 at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Shechtman makes his Nobel-winning breakthrough when he studies the diffraction patterns formed by X-rays passing through crystals. He finds that some crystals produce a regular but nonrepeating pattern, revealing a structure that does not repeat. Such crystals are called quasicrystals.

Shechtman publishes his findings on quasicrystals in 1984, and he faces criticism and ridicule from the scientific community. The head of his research group says he brings disgrace to the team. A leading critic is Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel laureate, who says, “There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists.” But Schechtman’s work is confirmed and repeated by others.

In awarding Shechtman the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2011 for his discovery of quasicrystals, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says his work “eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter.” He is Israel’s 10th Nobel Prize winner.

Shechtman runs for president of Israel in 2014 but receives only one vote in the Knesset as Reuven Rivlin is elected.