Dr. Zewail during the lecture
The American University in Cairo (AUC) hosted yesterday the inaugural lecture of the Zewail Foundation Public Lecture Series in Science and Culture, delivered by Nobel laureate and AUC trustee Ahmed Zewail. Zewail’s lecture, titled “Egypt is the Hope,” discussed Egypt’s future in the post-revolutionary period and announced the inauguration of a new project, Zewail City for Science and Technology.
Addressing a packed Ewart Hall, Zewail said, “The January 25 revolution was a model revolution as it represented the unity of a whole nation with all segments of the society.” He added that he never imagined how much corruption existed in Egypt until the revolution brought it to light. He continued his remarks, discussing opportunities for economic development in Egypt including the expansion of the country’s agriculture and tourism industries, and a focused effort to improve education. “There will never be a revival without focusing on education,” he noted.
“Thanks to the revolution and a government that cares about education and scientific research, we were able to establish the Zewail City for Science and Technology,” said Zewail. “The city will include an international university and a technology garden.”
Zewail is currently working on laying the foundation of the city, which will include six Nobel laureates on its Board of Trustees. “This city is Egypt’s national project not Zewail’s project,” he emphasized.
Zewail concluded his lecture by expressing optimism for Egypt’s future and his confidence in Egyptians. “How is it that thousands would come today to attend a lecture on the future of Egypt and then be accused of being unaware?” he pondered, advising people that they should start organizing their life in a way that helps to develop the country, exactly as they have organized themselves in Tahrir Square.
Prior to his remarks, AUC President Lisa Anderson presented AUC’s Presidential Medal to Zewail in honor of his achievements. “Obviously, Dr. Zewail does not need another award but it is a privilege for us to bestow upon him AUC’s own Presidential Medal. This is an honor AUC has given only eight times in its 92 year history. The honor is presented ‘to people who have done extraordinary things for the advancement of Egypt and for the human progress of the peoples of the world.’ I cannot think of a more deserving recipient that Dr. Ahmed Zewail,” Anderson said.
The lecture was attended by Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Amr Salama, Minister of Education Ahmed Gamal Moussa, AUC Provost Medhat Haroun, as well as a number of public figures and professors from AUC and other Egyptian universities. The Public Lecture Series of the Zewail Foundation will expose the Egyptian community to the ideas and opinions of local and international speakers on different issues including science, technology, economics, and politics.
The Ahmed Zewail Foundation for Knowledge and Development was established through The American University in Cairo as a non-profit, nonpolitical organization. Its mission is to disseminate useful knowledge. In pursuit of this, the foundation seeks out and rewards young people who “demonstrate extraordinary commitment to the pursuit of scientific inquiry and the affirmation of humanistic values.” Two prizes are given annually in the form of a medal and a monetary award. Additionally, in an annual event at the Cairo Opera House, one prize is given for outstanding achievement and creativity in the arts.
Zewail, the sole recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in femtoscience, holds the Linus Pauling Chair and is director of the Gordon and Betty Moore Center at the California Institute of Technology. He serves on numerous international boards and is an honorary scholar at various organizations around the world. In 2008, he was appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama to the President’s Council of Advisors as the first science envoy to the Middle East.
Most recently, Zewail’s research has developed the field of 4D electron microscopy for the direct visualization of matter behavior in the four dimensions of space and time. These developments are expected to have broad-ranging applications in nanotechnology and biomedical sciences.
In recognition of his contributions to science and public life, Zewail has received honors from around the globe including: 40 honorary degrees in the sciences, arts, philosophy, law, medicine and humane letters; Orders of State and Merit; Grand Collar of the Nile; commemorative postage stamps; and more than 100 international awards including the Albert Einstein World Award, Benjamin Franklin Medal, Leonardo da Vinci Award, King Faisal Prize and the Priestley Medal. Zewail is an elected member of academies and learned societies including the American Philosophical Society, National Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of London, French Academy, Russian Academy, Chinese Academy and the Swedish Academy.