Nobel Laureate in Chemistry to Speak at U.Va.

April 17, 2007 -- Nobel Prize-winning chemist John C. Polanyi will give a public lecture titled “A Life in Science” on Thursday, April 19th at 5:00 p.m. in the Rotunda’s Dome Room as a part of the University of Virginia Nobel Laureate Science Lecture Series.

Polanyi shares the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Dudley R. Herschbach and Yuan T. Lee for their contributions to the dynamics of elementary chemical processes.  The Nobel Foundation cited Polanyi specifically for developing "the method of infrared chemiluminescence, in which the extremely weak infrared emission from a newly formed molecule is measured and analysed." Polanyi's ground-breaking research of the infrared radiation generated by chemical reactions and the subsequent theories he enabled laid the foundation for the eventual development of chemical lasers. 

This public lecture will address Polanyi’s scientific motivations as well as his hopes for the future of the world. Throughout his career as a scientist, Polanyi has also been very active in peace and disarmament activities.  In addition to his scientific research, he has written extensively on the responsibilities of scientists and the connections between issues such as science policy, peace, and human rights.

Polanyi is currently a University Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto.  He previously served as a mentor to U.Va.’s current Department of Chemistry Chair, Ian Harrison. In addition to his public lecture, Polanyi will meet with chemistry faculty and graduate students during his visit.  Polanyi will also give the Jefferson Lecture in Chemistry, “Toward a Molecular Printing Press: Xeroxing a Snowflake” on April 20 at 4 p.m. in Chemistry Room 402.  

The University of Virginia Nobel Laureate Science Lecture Series was established in 2004 by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies to recognize and promote excellence, innovative thinking, and high aspirations at every stage in the education and professional development of U.Va. students and faculty members and to convey to the University community the great social benefits of scientific research and discovery.

Polanyi’s visit is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies; the Chemistry Graduate Student Council; the Departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering; as well as the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Graduate Student Council.

Written by Melissa Maki, research communications coordinator for the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies.