Behind the scenes with Israeli Nobel Prize Chemist

by Michael Sax

Dan Shechtman won a Nobel prize. He shares how his childhood curiosity inspired him to read and explore the world. It’s amazing what a young boy can do with a magnifying glass.

Meet Dan Shechtman

Dan Shechtman is an Israeli scientist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2011. He discovered quasicrystals. He talks about a wide variety of topics in this interview. “I remember the day of Deceleration of Independence of Israel. We had a radio, so everybody came to our home, to listen to the radio, to listen to the announcement. And the day later, Egyptian airplanes came to bomb Tel Aviv. It was a mixed feeling. On the one hand, great joy. And on the other hand, fear that it was a big war, and the Arab countries are coming to Israel from each and every direction.

Childhood memories and inspiration to study

Dan shares some dear memories with us. He recalls: “All the children were climbing trees. It was unbelievable. There was one tree that had fruit like dates, and we were throwing them to each other. If this hits your shirt, you cannot remove the stain and your parents would be very mad at you… I read books endlessly. There was one book that I read 25 times the same book. Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island. There was a hero here, he was an engineer. I admired him, I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be able to do everything like Cyrus Smith. And this is why I directed my life to study engineering.

Looking at the big picture and small picture

“My role model and mentor was my grandfather. If I had a question, he had an answer. And I had many questions about science, about religion. And one thing he did that affected my life later on was a gift he bought me. It was a magnifying glass. And I was walking in the fields of Ramat Gan and looking at every flower, at every insect, at every small thing, and I fell in love with the world of small things.”

Having inspiring role models and a curiosity to explore encouraged him to learn more about the world. Years later, he won the Nobel Prize.

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