2005 Wolf Prize given to chemist Richard N. Zare

Richard N. Zare

Richard N. Zare

Richard N. Zare, the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science, has been named winner of the 2005 Wolf Prize in chemistry.

The award was announced on Jan. 25 by the Israeli-based Wolf Foundation in recognition of Zare's "ingenious applications of laser techniques for identifying complex mechanisms in molecules and their use in analytical chemistry. There is no doubt that Zare has taken chemistry to its limits, in more ways than one."

The $100,000 prize will be presented to Zare by Moshe Katsav, president of Israel, during a ceremony at the Israeli Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem on May 22.

Zare is the seventh Stanford faculty member to receive a Wolf Prize since the awards were established in 1978. He joins a total of 224 scientists and artists from 21 countries who have received the honor, which recognizes outstanding achievement "in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples, irrespective of nationality, race, color, religion, sex or political view."

In announcing the award, the Wolf Prize jury cited Zare's "seminal contributions to the theory and practice of both physical and analytical chemistry" by developing "a series of novel techniques in applied physical chemistry that subsequently became indispensable to progress in chemical and biochemical analysis, particularly in relation to detection at the single-molecule, area-selective and sub-cellular levels."

The jury also noted that Zare "has worked relentlessly and successfully for chemistry in the national as well as international arena. He is an outstanding spokesman for science."

"I am proud to be a 'lone Wolf,'" said Zare, who joined the chemistry faculty in 1977. "But I'm also mindful that so many others are also well deserving, so it is humbling. These awards don't come by accident. People have to submit nominations and write letters of support, so I'm very aware of and thankful to my friends."

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a foreign fellow of the British Royal Society, Zare earned a doctorate in chemical physics from Harvard University in 1964. Among his numerous honors are the 1983 National Medal of Science and the 1999 Welch Award in chemistry.

According to the Wolf Prize jury, "Zare's highly productive scientific career has been built around two recurrent themes: The use of lasers for probing details of how electrons distribute themselves within atoms and molecules, and hence dictate their chemical properties; and the application of high resolution and ultra-sensitive physical techniques to both biochemical and chemical analysis. … Zare's inventions and discoveries have generated an impressive collection of new spectroscopic tools for scientific communities investigating chemical dynamics and studying biochemical processes."

The jury noted that Zare "has pursued the themes of very efficient separation and ultra-sensitive detection to their chemical limit, namely the single molecule. He has also demonstrated that, at sufficiently high levels of power, he could carry out optical trapping of single molecules—once again demonstrating the ultimate limit of this technique in chemistry."

The Wolf Foundation was established in 1976 by the German-born inventor and diplomat Ricardo Wolf, a long-time resident of Cuba who served as Cuba's ambassador to Israel, where he lived until his death in 1981.

Zare is the third member of the Stanford chemistry faculty, along with Carl Djerassi (1978) and Harden McConnell (1984), to receive the Wolf Prize in chemistry. Prizes in physics were awarded to Stanford scientists Martin Perl (1982) and Conyers Herring (1985). Joseph Keller received the mathematics prize in 1997, and Stanley Cohen received the prize in medicine in 1981.