The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013
Born: 15 March 1930, Vienna, Austria
Affiliation at the time of the award: Université de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Prize motivation: “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems”
Prize share: 1/3
Martin Karplus was born in Vienna, Austria. His family fled to the U.S. prior to the German occupation in 1938. After studying at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States, Karplus moved to the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, where he received his Ph.D. in 1953. He worked at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, at Columbia University in New York, and later at Harvard University from 1967. He is also associated with the University of Strasbourg, France. Martin Karplus 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.