The Nobel Prize was awarded to three scientists who developed computer simulations that model complex chemical reactions, a feat that helped improve pharmaceutical research and build more efficient industrial products.
The 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scientists who developed computer simulations that model complex chemical reactions. The feat, undertaken at Harvard in the 1970s, managed to blend Newtonian classical physics with quantum physics. It allowed chemists to use computers instead of test tubes to understand chemical processes, and helped in the creation of new drugs as well as more efficient industrial products.
The prize was awarded to Martin Karplus, of the University and Strasbourg and Harvard University, Michael Levitt, of Stanford University, and Arieh Warshel, of the University of Southern California. The three scientists will share a $1.2 million purse “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems,” according to a statement from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Before the prize-winning team’s research, Newtonian and quantum physics had been considered an incompatible couple, the academy said. Newtonian physics had offered neat, simple strategies for modeling large molecules in stasis, but it had provided no means to model smaller molecules or chemical reactions. Meanwhile, quantum physics could model chemical reactions but required such extreme computing power that it was viable just for modeling small molecules. Scientists had needed to choose: model small molecules on a fine scale, or model large molecules on an impressionistic scale.