Gabor A. Somorjai, professor of chemistry, has been named winner of the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, along with Gerhard Ertl. The two will share the $100,000 award.
The Israeli-based Wolf Foundation, in its Jan. 27 announcement, said the two men, working independently, laid the foundation for the present understanding of surface chemical reactions, which it said is of enormous importance in industrial technology as well as basic science.
Surface science technologies are applied in many industrial processes and are used to fight pollution.
Somorjai was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1935. He immigrated to the United States at the 1956 outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution, while in his fourth year as a chemical engineering student at Budapest's Technical University. He received his PhD in chemistry at Berkeley in 1960. After graduation he joined the IBM research staff in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., where he remained until 1964. At that time he was appointed assistant professor of chemistry at Berkeley; in 1972 he became professor.
Somorjai has educated more than 90 PhD students and had over 110 post-doctoral co-workers. He has written three textbooks and more than 700 scientific papers on surface chemistry, heterogeneous catalysis and solid-state chemistry.
His many honors include the Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists, the Adamson Award in Surface Chemistry from the American Chemical Society, the Peter Debye Award from the American Chemical Society, the Henry Albert Palladium Award and the Von Hippel Award from the Materials Research Society. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the American Academy of Sciences.
The Wolf Foundation was established in 1975 by Ricardo Wolf, a German-born diplomat and philanthropist who emigrated to Cuba and served as Cuban ambassador to Israel, where he died in 1981.
Wolf prizes are awarded annually in recognition of outstanding achievements in chemistry, physics, medicine, agriculture, mathematics and the arts. Somorjai is the ninth Berkeley faculty member to receive a Wolf Prize. The most recent were Carl Huffaker and Peter Schultz, in 1995.
Israeli President Ezer Weizman will present the awards in Jeru-salem in May.