Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Walter Kohn

Walter Kohn (1923 –2016), the Austrian-born American, Nobel prize winning theoretical physicist and theoretical chemist died last week on 19 April.
Kohn arrived in England as part of the famous Kindertransport rescue operation, immediately after the annexation of Austria by Hitler. His parents, Gittel and Salomon Kohn, were killed at Auschwitz in 1944. Because Kohn  was a German national, he was sent to Canada by the English in July 1940. He succeeded in entering the University of Toronto, but as a German national, the future Nobel Laureate in Chemistry was not allowed to enter the chemistry building, and so he opted for physics and mathematics.
Beyond physics, he was a humanist, an artist, and a philosopher who shared time with such revered figures as the Pope and the Dalai Lama. In 2005, he and fellow Nobel Laureate and UC Santa Barbara Professor of Physics and of Materials Alan Heeger produced a documentary on solar power titled The Power of the Sun, narrated by actor and comedian John Cleese. It was distributed in several languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, several European languages, and Tagalog in the Philippines, with screenings worldwide. This film inspires with the dream of empowering even the most isolated people of the developing world with electricity.
Beyond his research, Walter was deeply engaged in matters spiritual and societal. Many have been inspired by his incredible life story and his work to promote tolerance and world peace.
Thank you, Michel

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