Wolf Prize Laureate in Physics 1999
The Prize Committee for Physics has unanimously decided that the Prize for 1999 be awarded to:
Department of Materials Engineering
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
“for the experimental discovery of quasi-crystals, non periodic solids having long-range order, which inspired the exploration of a new fundamental state of matter.”
Since the end of the last century, it was believed that all crystals having periodic atomic arrangement in three-dimensions must exist in a restricted number of symmetries. This classification has been basic to all previous research and applications concerning the atomic structure of solids. In particular, crystals having five-fold symmetries, were excluded as a stable phase of matter.
Professor Dan Shechtman discovered five-fold symmetric alloys, a claim which was initially received with disbelief. Moreover, he had the courage to defend his experimental results in the face of severe adverse criticism. The new state of matter emerging from these experiments was fully interpreted and explained in collaboration with John W. Cahn (NIST, USA) and Denis Gratias (CNRS, France).