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Pr. Pierre-Gilles de Gennes

Born October 24, 1932(1932-10-24)
Paris, France
Died May 18, 2007 (aged 74)
Orsay, France
Nationality France
Fields Physics
Institutions ESPCI
Collège de France
Paris-Sud 11 University Orsay
Alma mater √Čcole Normale Sup√©rieure
Notable awards Nobel Prize for Physics 1991
Lorentz Medal 1990
Wolf Prize 1990

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (October 24, 1932 in Paris ‚Äď May 18, 2007 in Orsay) was a French physicist and the Nobel Prize laureate in Physics in 1991.

Contents

Biography

He was born in Paris, France and was home-schooled to the age of 12. Later, de Gennes studied at the √Čcole Normale Sup√©rieure. After leaving the √Čcole in 1955, he became a research engineer at the Saclay center of the Commissariat √† l'√Čnergie Atomique, working mainly on neutron scattering and magnetism, with advice from A. Abragam and J. Friedel. He defended his Ph.D. in 1957.

In 1959, he was a postdoctoral visitor with C. Kittel at the University of California, Berkeley, and then spent 27 months in the French Navy. In 1961, he was assistant professor in Orsay and soon started the Orsay group on superconductors. In 1968, he switched to studying liquid crystals.

Career

In 1971, he became professor at the Coll√®ge de France, and participated in STRASACOL (a joint action of Strasbourg, Saclay and Coll√®ge de France) on polymer physics. From 1980 on, he became interested in interfacial problems : the dynamics of wetting and adhesion.

He was awarded the Lorentz Medal and Wolf Prize in 1989. In 1991, he received the Nobel Prize in physics. He was then director of the √Čcole Sup√©rieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris (ESPCI), a post he held from 1976 until his retirement in 2002.

P.G. de Gennes has also received the Holweck Prize from the joint French and British Physical Society; the Ampere Prize, French Academy of Science; the gold medal from the French CNRS; the Matteuci Medal, Italian Academy; the Harvey Prize, Israel; and polymer awards from both APS and ACS.

His Nobel Prize was awarded for "discovering that methods developed for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalized to more complex forms of matter, in particular to liquid crystals and polymers".

More recently, he worked on granular materials and on the nature of memory objects in the brain.

References

External links

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The real point of honor … is not to be always right. It is to dare to propose new ideas, and then to check them.

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (October 24, 1932 ‚Äď May 18, 2007) was a French physicist and the Nobel Prize laureate in Physics in 1991.

Sourced

Have fun on sea and land
Unhappy it is to become famous
Riches, honors, false glitters of this world
All is but soap bubbles
  • Benjamin Franklin performed a beautiful experiment using surfactants; on a pond at Clapham Common, he poured a small amount of oleic acid, a natural surfactant which tends to form a dense film at the water-air interface. He measured the volume required to cover all the pond. Knowing the area, he then knew the height of the film, something like three nanometers in our current units. This was to my knowledge the first measurement of the size of molecules. In our days, when we are spoilt with exceedingly complex toys, such as nuclear reactors or synchrotron sources, I particularly like to describe experiments of this Franklin style to my students.
    Surfactants allow us to protect a water surface, and to generate these beautiful soap bubbles, which are the delight of our children.
  • A dense film of a conventional surfactant is quite impermeable. On the other hand, a dense film of Janus grains always has some interstices between the grains, and allows for chemical exchange between the two sides; "the skin can breathe". This may possibly be of some practical interest.
    • "Soft Matter" Nobel lecture (9 December 1991)
  • The final lines are not mine: they come from an experiment on soft matter, after Boudin‚Ķ An English translation might run like this:
Have fun on sea and land
Unhappy it is to become famous
Riches, honors, false glitters of this world
All is but soap bubbles
No conclusion could be more appropriate today.
  • "Soft Matter" Nobel lecture (9 December 1991)
  • Le vrai point d'honneur [d'un scientifique] n'est pas d'√™tre toujours dans le vrai. Il est d'oser, de proposer des id√©es neuves, et ensuite de les v√©rifier.
    • The real point of honor [for a scientist] is not to be always right. It is to dare to propose new ideas, and then to check them.
    • As quoted in La Science des R√™ves, Science et Vie Junior, 214, (18 May 2007), p. 13

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