Israeli-American chemists Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt were officially awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, on Tuesday.
The two, along with Martin Karplus, won the award “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.
The three will each receive a cash prize of just over $1 million.
Warshel, 72, is a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he has been since the 1970s.
Levitt, a South Africa-born professor, immigrated to Israel in 1979, married here and taught at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot for most of the 1980s.
On Monday, Stockholm’s Jewish community held a special welcoming ceremony for the two Israeli-American scientists.
“This is a very exciting day for Israel and not for the first time,” Minister of Communications and Home Front Defense Gilad Erdan said during the event, referring to the six chemistry Nobels won by Israelis in the past decade.
Despite holding US citizenship, Levitt repeatedly emphasized his connection to Israel, and said his accomplishment was an achievement for the Jewish state.
“At its root, this is an Israeli Nobel Prize,” Levitt said Monday during a conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Take advantage of me, I want to be utilized as an Israeli prizewinner.”
Levitt, who was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1947, received his BSc from King’s College, London, and his PhD in computational biology from the University of Cambridge. He was a Royal Society Exchange Fellow at the Weizmann Institute in 1967-1968, immigrated to Israel in 1979, and was a professor of chemical physics at Weizmann from 1980 to 1987. Levitt’s sons still live in Israel.
Warshel was born in 1940 in Kibbutz Sde Nahum, in the Beit She’an Valley. He served in the IDF (reaching the rank of captain), then attended Haifa’s Technion, where he got a BSc degree in Chemistry in 1966. He earned MSc and PhD degrees in Chemical Physics (in 1967 and 1969) at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. He then did postdoctoral work at Harvard University, returned to the Weizmann Institute in the early 1970s and also worked for the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England. He joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at USC in 1976.
Both Warshel and Levitt left Israel for the US because they felt they could not progress here, underlining concerns about the ongoing brain drain of top Israeli academics.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.