Ilya Romanovich Prigogine
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1977
Born: 25 January 1917, Moscow, Russia
Died: 28 May 2003, Brussels, Belgium
Affiliation at the time of the award: Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium; University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA
Prize motivation: “for his contributions to non-equilibrium thermodynamics, particularly the theory of dissipative structures”
Prize share: 1/1
Thermodynamics is about heat and its transformation into other forms of energy—basically involving statistical descriptions of atomic and molecular movements. Irreversible thermodynamic processes go in only one direction, usually toward more disorder. However, during the 1960s Ilya Prigogine developed a theory about dissipative structures, which maintains that long before a state of equilibrium is reached in irreversible processes, orderly and stable systems can arise from more disordered systems. The result has been applied in a great many areas.