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Karplus, Levitt, Warshel win 2013 Nobel Chemistry Prize

October 09, 2013 17:23 IST

Three molecular chemists -- Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel -- were on Wednesday awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for devising computer simulations that are used to understand and predict chemical processes.

The prize money of SEK 8 million ($1.25m) will be shared equally between the laureates.

In the 1970s, Karplus, Levitt and Warshel laid the foundation for the powerful programs that are used to understand and predict chemical processes. Computer models mirroring real life have become crucial for most advances made in chemistry today.

“The work of Karplus, Levitt and Warshel is ground-breaking in that they managed to make Newton’s classical physics work side-by-side with the fundamentally different quantum physics. Previously, chemists had to choose to use either or. The strength of classical physics was that calculations were simple and could be used to model really large molecules. Its weakness, it offered no way to simulate chemical reactions. For that purpose, chemists instead had to use quantum physics. But such calculations required enormous computing power and could therefore only be carried out for small molecules,” the jury said.

Karplus, Levitt and Warshel developed multiscale models for complex chemical systems.

"The strength of the methods that Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel have developed is that they are universal," the Nobel panel said.

About the Nobel Laureates:

Martin Karplus was born in 1930 in Vienna, Austria. He received his Ph.D. 1953 from California Institute of Technology, CA, USA. Professeur Conventionné, Université de Strasbourg, France and Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Michael Levitt was born in 1947 in Pretoria, South Africa. He received his Ph.D. in 1971 from University of Cambridge, UK. Robert W. and Vivian K. Cahill Professor in Cancer Research, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.

Arieh Warshel was born in 1940 in Kibbutz Sde-Nahum, Israel. He receive his Ph.D. in 1969 from Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel. Distinguished Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Image: The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013 was awarded jointly to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel

Photographs: Courtesy: Nobel Media AB, Wikimedia Commons