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Pierre-Gilles de Gennes

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Title: Pierre-Gilles de Gennes  
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Subject: List of Nobel laureates by university affiliation, Wolf Prize in Physics, Curie Institute (Paris), Polymer science, Riccardo Giacconi
Collection: 1932 Births, 2007 Deaths, Alexander Von Humboldt Fellows, Collège De France Faculty, École Normale Supérieure Alumni, Espci Paristech Faculty, Experimental Physicists, Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science, Foreign Members of the Royal Society, Foreign Members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, French Nobel Laureates, French Physicists, Liquid Crystals, Lorentz Medal Winners, Lycée Saint-Louis Alumni, Members of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Members of the French Academy of Sciences, Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, Nobel Laureates in Physics, Participants in the Les Houches Physics Summer School, People from Paris, University of California, Berkeley Staff, Wolf Prize in Physics Laureates
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Pierre-Gilles de Gennes

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes
Born (1932-10-24)October 24, 1932
Paris, France
Died May 18, 2007(2007-05-18) (aged 74)
Orsay, France
Nationality French
Fields Physics
Alma mater École Normale Supérieure
Notable awards

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (French: ; October 24, 1932 – May 18, 2007) was a French physicist and the Nobel Prize laureate in physics in 1991.[2][3][4][5][6]


  • Education and early life 1
  • Career and research 2
  • Awards and honours 3
  • Personal life 4
  • References 5

Education and early life

He was born in Paris, France, and was home-schooled to the age of 12. By the age of 13, he had adopted adult reading habits and was visiting museums.[7] Later, de Gennes studied at the École Normale Supérieure. After leaving the École in 1955, he became a research engineer at the Saclay center of the Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique, working mainly on neutron scattering and magnetism, with advice from A. Abragam and Jacques Friedel. He defended his Ph.D. in 1957.[8][9]

Career and research

In 1959, he was a postdoctoral research visitor with Charles 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.

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

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

Awards and honours

He was awarded the Harvey Prize, Lorentz Medal and Wolf Prize in 1988 and 1990. In 1991, he received the Nobel Prize in physics. He was then director of the École Supérieure 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 F.A. Cotton Medal for Excellence in Chemical Research of the American Chemical Society in 1997, 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.

He was awarded a Nobel Prize 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".

The Royal Society of Chemistry awards the De Gennes Prize biennially, in his honour.[10] He was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 1984.[1] He was awarded A. Cemal Eringen Medal in 1998.

Personal life

In 2003 he was one of 22 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto.[11]

On 22 May 2007, his death was made public as official messages and tributes poured in.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Fellowship of the Royal Society 1660-2015". London:  
  2. ^ Joanny, Jean-François; Pincus, Philip A. (August 2007). "Obituary: Pierre-Gilles de Gennes". Physics Today 60 (8): 71–72.  
  3. ^ Biography and Nobel lecture on Nobel Prize page
  4. ^ An Obituary of Gennes in the
  5. ^ Ajdari, Armand (July 2007). "Physics. Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (1932-2007)".  
  6. ^ David Dunmur & Tim Sluckin (2011) Soap, Science, and Flat-screen TVs: a history of liquid crystals, pp 183–8, Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-954940-5 .
  7. ^ a b Plévert, Laurence (2011). "Pierre-Gilles de Gennes: A Life in Science". World Scientific Publishing.  
  8. ^ Selected bibliography on the College de France website
  9. ^ Nature des Objets de mémoire : le cas de l’olfaction conférence novembre 2006.(French)
  10. ^ "de Gennes Prize". Royal Society of Chemistry. 
  11. ^ "Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 

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