John Charles Polanyi

Prof. Dr. John Charles Polanyi

Nationality
Germany 
Institution
University of Toronto 
Award
1986 
Discipline
Chemistry 
Co-recipients
Profs. Dudley R. Herschbach and Yuan T. Lee 

Biography on the Official Web Site of the Nobel Prize

CURRICULUM VITAE

Born in Berlin on January 23, 1929 from Hungarian parents. At the age of 4 he came to Manchester, together with his family, who had found refuge in England. There he later studied Chemistry, and in 1952 he graduated as Ph.D. Subsequently he spent two years working as a “postdoctoral fellow” at the National Research Council Laboratories of Ottawa. From 1954 to 1956 he worked as a research assistant at the Princeton University at New Jersey (USA), then he got a research assignment for Chemistry at the University of Toronto, Ontario, initially as an assistant professor, since 1960 as an “Associate Professor”. Since 1962 he has been nominated professor in ordinary.

Recently he acts as a member of the Advisory Board of several research institutes: at the “Ontario Laser & Lightwave Research Centre” in Canada and at the Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik in Munich, Germany. His research concentrates, above all, upon chemical primary processes and their theoretical foundations. At the same time as the American scientists Dudley R. Herschbach and Yuan-Tse Lee, Polanyi developed the new method of crossed molecular beams. By that it was made possible to study the dynamics of such individual processes in detail.

For this “reaction dynamics” Polanyi created an additional, important measuring system based upon infrared chemiluminescence. After a determined, short space of time the reaction products emit light of longer wave length, the analysis of which allows to make out the quantum-mechanical status of the molecules. For their contributions to the dynamics of chemical primary processes, Herschbach, Lee and Polanyi were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986. Before Polanyi had received numerous scientific distinctions and titles as doctor honoris causa.

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John Charles Polanyi

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