Born: 9 May 1947, Pretoria, South Africa
Affiliation at the time of the award: Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA
Prize motivation: "for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems"
Field: biochemistry, physical chemistry, theoretical chemistry
Prize share: 1/3
Michael Levitt was born in Pretoria, South Africa, to a Jewish family from Lithuania. He studied first at the University of Pretoria and later at King's College, London. After a period spent at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, Levitt continued his postgraduate studies at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, where he continued working until he returned to the Weizmann Institute in 1980. Since 1987, he has worked at Stanford University. Michael Levitt is married with three children.
The world around us is made up of atoms that are joined together to form molecules. During chemical reactions atoms change places and new molecules are formed. To accurately predict the course of the reactions at the sites where the reaction occurs advanced calculations based on quantum mechanics are required. For other parts of the molecules, it is possible to use the less complicated calculations of classical mechanics. In the 1970s, Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt, and Arieh Warshel successfully developed methods that combined quantum and classical mechanics to calculate the courses of chemical reactions using computers.