Wolf Prize Laureate in Chemistry 1988
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Tel-Aviv University, Israel
“for their incisive theoretical studies elucidating energy acquisition and disposal in molecular systems and mechanisms for dynamical selectivity and specificity”.
Professor Joshua Jortner was one of the most influential theoretical physical chemists of his time. His works cover a vast range of fields, such as the theory of solvated electrons, properties of excited electronic states of molecules, coherent multiphoton processes, charge transfer in polar solvents and in biophysical systems, and the dynamics of supercooled large molecules and molecular clusters. His impact on each of these fields would have been enough to earn him worldwide recognition.
However, Jortner’s most impressive achievement is undoubtedly his recognition and elucidation of the intramolecular nature of radiationless dissipation of energy in molecules of large and medium size. Based on a simple theoretical model (proposed in 1968 in collaboration with Mordechai Bixon), the basic notions specifying the energy acquisition process, the interstate coupling modes, and the mechanisms of energy disposal, were laid open.
Jortner’s ideas and terminology became seminal to the study of laser chemistry, multiphoton processes in molecules, relaxation phenomena in condensed phases and the dynamics of biophysical systems, and had an indelible impact on the modern development of chemical physics and theoretical chemistry.