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04.08.2016 - ODG

UNESCO Director-General pays homage to Professor Ahmed Zewail

Photo: Chemical Heritage Foundation/Douglas A. Lockard / CC BY-SA 3.0. Ahmed Zewail.

It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing away of Professor Ahmed Zewail, a renowned Egyptian-American scientist as well as a close and cherished collaborator of UNESCO over many years.


A chemist and man of science, Professor Zewail was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in femtochemistry, which broke new ground in his field and made major contributions to the fields of chemistry, biology and pharmacology with potential applications in chemical synthesis and human health.

He received many international awards, including the Albert Einstein World Award of Science and, in April 2009, President Barack Obama appointed him to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In November of the same year, he was named the First United States Science Envoy to the Middle East.

His death is a great loss not only to the scientific community, but also for UNESCO’s Science actions and programmes. Professor Zewail was a great champion of ensuring  more women in science. Indeed, he served as the Chairman of the Physical Sciences Jury for the “L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Prize” from 2009 to 2015, in which capacity his commitment and contribution were evident. He will be sadly missed.

Beyond the above, Professor Zewail was also a member of the prestigious UN Secretary General’s Scientific Advisory Board, created in 2013 at the request of the UN Secretary-General and hosted by UNESCO, to further inform the debate on sustainable development. He was a fervent advocate of capacity and awareness development in the basic and applied sciences, and his personal engagement and contribution to the success of the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies 2015, led by UNESCO on behalf of the UN, was highly appreciated.

Our gratitude is not limited to Professor Zewail's contribution to UNESCO’s activities. We thank him also for his outstanding devotion to science and exemplary commitment to the use of science to make this world a better place. I believe strongly that his work will remain an inspiration and a model for future generations of scientists.

On behalf of UNESCO, I wish to express my deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to his family.

     Irina Bokova,
     Director General of UNESCO

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