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Ahmed Zewail

  • Egyptian scientist
  • Born February 26, 1946

Ahmed Hassan Zewail (Arabic: أحمد حسن زويل‎, Egyptian Arabic: [ˈæħmæd ˈħæsæn zeˈweːl]; February 26, 1946 – August 2, 2016) was an Egyptian-American scientist, known as the "father of femtochemistry". He was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on femtochemistry and became the first Egyptian to win a Nobel Prize in a scientific field. He was the Linus Pauling Chair Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Physics, and the director of the Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology at the California Institute of Technology.


Everybody in the world is - is ready for liberty. It's a question of how you do it.




Human resources are just tremendous in Egypt, but we need the science base; we need the correct science base.




Like everywhere in the world, people of the Middle East aspire to liberty and justice. They wish to have a better life and a decent education for their children.




The family's dream was to see me receive a high degree abroad and to return to become a university professor - on the door to my study room, a sign was placed reading 'Dr. Ahmed,' even though I was still far from becoming a doctor.




The vast majority of Muslims are moderates working for a better future and seeking a peaceful life.




Despite differences of faith or even the occasional collisions between them, Egypt is united.




A femtosecond is comparable to one second in 32 million years. It is like watching a 32-million-year movie to see one second.




Some consider the removal of Dr. Mohammed Morsi a coup by the army against an elected president. Others treat it as the second revolution, or the continuation of the January 25, 2011, revolution.




On the banks of the Nile, the Rosetta branch, I lived an enjoyable childhood in the City of Disuq, which is the home of the famous mosque, Sidi Ibrahim.




The mosque was the neighbourhood house of worship, but it was also the place where my high school friends and I came to study.




I teach at Caltech and oversee a research laboratory there. In general, I find that the majority of young people are excited by the prospects of research, but they soon discover that in the current market, many doctorate-level scientists are holding temporary positions or are unemployed.




Molecules A and B meet, marry, and beget the species. This takes place in one-millionth of a billionth of a second. This is a fundamental process in nature, and the world was looking for a way to be able to see the process. But many brilliant people said it couldn't be done.




Although the Nasser revolution of 1952 was secular, the culture remained deeply religious - but it was a faith of moderation and tolerance. Women made up nearly half my class at university, and my senior academic adviser there was a woman. In Alexandria, my friends were Christians and Muslims.




Every effort should be made to help build the new democratic nation with reconciliation and forgiveness, for the sake of Egypt and not for the benefit of a party or a group.




Personally, I have been enriched by my experiences in Egypt and America, and feel fortunate to have been endowed with a true passion for knowledge.




As a cultural product of both 'East' and 'West', I do not believe there is a fundamental basis for a clash of civilisations, or that the West is the cause of all problems.




I can tell you that the majority of the Egyptians I know, they think of a much wider spectrum of people than the Muslim Brotherhood.




Mubarak came to power as a hero who fought bravely in Egypt's wars and headed the nation's air force.




The so-called Arab Spring has proved that the fall of a Mubarak-like presidency does not mean the immediate rise of democracy. In spite of this, I am confident that Egypt will not return to an authoritarian governing system again, and that, with some time, it will achieve its democratic goals.




When I was a boy in Desuq, Egypt, a city on the Rosetta branch of the Nile, about 50 miles east of Alexandria, my family lived steps away from the local landmark, a mosque named for a 13th-century Sufi sheik.




When Mohamed Morsi was elected president of Egypt in 2012, many in the country, including me, were hopeful that he would become a democratic president for all Egyptians - not only for the Muslim Brotherhood.




The U.S. can still maintain research institutions, such as Caltech, that are the envy of the world, yet it would be hubristic and naive to think that this position is sustainable without investing in science education and basic research.




The partnership between the United States and Egypt is crucial to both countries, and it can't be predicated on political manipulation and threats of withholding aid.




After World War II, scientific research in the U.S. was well supported. In the 1960s, when I came to America, the sky was the limit, and this conducive atmosphere enabled many of us to pursue esoteric research that resulted in America winning the lion's share of Nobel Prizes.




Growing up in Egypt, I never saw the country as divided as it is today. We now have two main political groupings: the Islamist parties and the civil, or liberal, political parties.




Let me put it this way: There is nothing in Islam that is fundamentally against the quest for knowledge.




In addition to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, which is crucial to U.S. interests both domestically and in the Middle East, the U.S. has had and will continue to need Egypt's collaboration in the war on terrorism.




Secularism will not work in Egypt any more than theocracy. What will work is governance that is guided by the Islamic values of the majority with protection of the minority rights.




From the dawn of history, science has probed the universe of unknowns, searching for the uniting laws of nature.




The universe at large is full of questions that we still don't know anything about, and there will be always young people, brilliant, who are going to make new discoveries.




Shortly after Sisi was elected, his administration announced cuts of 'subsidies' on natural gas and energy consumption and lowered those for bread and other goods. Such action was taboo during the Mubarak and Sadat presidencies for over half a century, but Sisi was able to convince Egyptians he was taking necessary action.




Once we understand how molecules are formed, we can manipulate them. If you can manipulate molecules, you can manipulate genes and matter, you can synthesize new material - the implications are just unbelievable.




In the 1970s, what I, as a young foreign student studying in the United States, found most dynamic, exciting and impressive about this country is what much of the world continues to value most about the U.S. today: its open intellectual culture, its great universities, its capacity for discovery and innovation.




There is little doubt that an unstable Syria will destabilize the whole Middle East.




The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salifist parties are a real force in the Egyptian society. No civil, liberal government can succeed, even after new elections, if the Islamists are forced to work underground as a foe and the country remains divided.




I left Egypt in 1969 for graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. I have been on the faculty at Caltech for 37 years and carried dual citizenship for 31. But my commitment to the country of my birth never wavered.



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