John C. Polanyi
Born: 23 January 1929, Berlin, Germany
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Prize motivation: "for their contributions concerning the dynamics of chemical elementary processes."
Prize share: 1/3
Chemical reactions in which molecules comprised of atoms collide and form new compounds represent one of nature's fundamental processes. At the end of the 1950s John Polanyi began developing methods to carefully study the dynamics of chemical reactions. During chemical reactions, the newly formed molecules are sometimes infused with energy that then is emitted in the form of infrared light. By measuring this very weak radiation, the quantum mechanical energy state of the molecules can be determined and the reaction mapped.