Pierre-Gilles de Gennes

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (French: [ʒɛn]; October 24, 1932 – May 18, 2007) was a French physicist and the Nobel Prize laureate in physics in 1991.[2][3][4][5][6]

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes
Pierre-Gilles crop
BornOctober 24, 1932
DiedMay 18, 2007 (aged 74)
Alma materÉcole Normale Supérieure
University of Paris
Scientific career

Education and early life

He was born in Paris, France, and was home-schooled to the age of 12. By the age of 13, he had adopted adult reading habits and was visiting museums.[7] Later, de Gennes studied at the École Normale Supérieure. After leaving the École in 1955, he became a research engineer at the Saclay center of the Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique, working mainly on neutron scattering and magnetism, with advice from A. Abragam and Jacques Friedel. He defended his Ph.D. in 1957 at the University of Paris.[8][9]

Career and research

In 1959, he was a postdoctoral research visitor with Charles Kittel at the University of California, Berkeley, and then spent 27 months in the French Navy. In 1961, he was assistant professor in Orsay and soon started the Orsay group on superconductors. In 1968, he switched to studying liquid crystals.

In 1971, he became professor at the Collège de France, and participated in STRASACOL (a joint action of Strasbourg, Saclay and Collège de France) on polymer physics. From 1980 on, he became interested in interfacial problems: the dynamics of wetting and adhesion.

More recently, he worked on granular materials and on the nature of memory objects in the brain.

Awards and honours

He was awarded the Harvey Prize, Lorentz Medal and Wolf Prize in 1988 and 1990. In 1991, he received the Nobel Prize in physics. He was then director of the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris (ESPCI), a post he held from 1976 until his retirement in 2002.

P.G. de Gennes has also received the F.A. Cotton Medal for Excellence in Chemical Research of the American Chemical Society in 1997, the Holweck Prize from the joint French and British Physical Society; the Ampere Prize, French Academy of Science; the gold medal from the French CNRS; the Matteuci Medal, Italian Academy; the Harvey Prize, Israel; and polymer awards from both APS and ACS.

He was awarded the above-mentioned Nobel Prize for discovering that "methods developed for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalized to more complex forms of matter, in particular to liquid crystals and polymers".

The Royal Society of Chemistry awards the De Gennes Prize biennially, in his honour.[10] He was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 1984.[1] He was awarded A. Cemal Eringen Medal in 1998.

Personal life

In 2003 he was one of 22 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto.[11]

On 22 May 2007, his death was made public as official messages and tributes poured in.[7]

On nuclear fusion he was quoted as saying, "We say that we will put the sun into a box. The idea is pretty. The problem is, we don't know how to make the box."


  1. ^ a b "Fellowship of the Royal Society 1660-2015". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-07-15.
  2. ^ Joanny, Jean-François; Pincus, Philip A. (August 2007). "Obituary: Pierre-Gilles de Gennes". Physics Today. 60 (8): 71–72. Bibcode:2007PhT....60h..71J. doi:10.1063/1.2774111.
  3. ^ Biography and Nobel lecture on Nobel Prize page
  4. ^ An Obituary of Gennes in the Hindu.com
  5. ^ Ajdari, Armand (July 2007). "Physics. Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (1932-2007)". Science. 317 (5837): 466. doi:10.1126/science.1146688. PMID 17656713.
  6. ^ David Dunmur & Tim Sluckin (2011) Soap, Science, and Flat-screen TVs: a history of liquid crystals, pp 183–8, Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-954940-5 .
  7. ^ a b Plévert, Laurence (2011). Pierre-Gilles de Gennes: A Life in Science. World Scientific Publishing. doi:10.1142/8182. ISBN 978-981-4355-25-4.
  8. ^ Selected bibliography on the College de France website Archived 2010-12-27 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Nature des Objets de mémoire : le cas de l’olfaction conférence novembre 2006.(in French)
  10. ^ "de Gennes Prize". Royal Society of Chemistry.
  11. ^ "Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
Curie Institute (Paris)

Institut Curie is one of the leading medical, biological and biophysical research centres in the world.

It is a private non-profit foundation operating a research center on biophysics, cell biology and oncology and a hospital specialized in treatment of cancer. It is located in Paris, France.

De Gennes Prize

The de Gennes Prize (formerly known as the Prize for Materials Chemistry) was established in 2008 and is awarded biennially by the Royal Society of Chemistry for outstanding and exceptional work in the field of materials chemistry. The de Gennes Prize honours the work of Pierre-Gilles de Gennes.The recipient of the de Gennes Prize receives £5000, a medal and certificate and completes a UK lecture tour.Pierre-Gilles de Gennes was born in Paris, France, in 1932. After graduating in 1955 from Ecole Normale, de Gennes was a research engineer at the Atomic Energy Centre (Saclay). After a brief time at University of California, Berkeley and 27 months in the French Navy, de Gennes became assistant professor at the University of Paris in Orsay. During his time at Orsay de Gennes worked on superconductors and liquid crystals.In 1991, Pierre-Gilles de Gennes was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for studying the boundary lines between order and disorder in materials like liquid crystals.After receiving the Nobel Prize, de Gennes visited roughly 200 high schools over a two-year period, from 1992 to 1994, in which he delivered talks on science, innovation and common sense to the students. Pierre-Gilles de Gennes died at the age of 74, on 18 May 2007.


ESPCI Paris (officially the École supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles de la Ville de Paris; The City of Paris Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution) is an institution of higher education founded in 1882 by the city of Paris, France. It educates undergraduate and graduate students in physics, chemistry and biology and conducts high-level research in those fields. It is ranked as the first French École d'Ingénieurs in the 2017 Shanghai Ranking.ESPCI Paris is a constituent college of PSL Research University and a founding member of the ParisTech (Paris Institute of Technology) alliance.

5 researchers and alumni from ESPCI Paris have been awarded the Nobel Prize:

Pierre and Marie Curie (Physics, 1903),

Marie Curie - second Nobel Prize (Chemistry, 1911),

Frédéric Joliot-Curie (Chemistry, 1935),

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (Physics, 1991),

Georges Charpak (Physics, 1992).Two thirds of the students enter the School following a competitive examination (concours X-ESPCI-ENS) following at least two years of Classes Préparatoires. The other students are recruited by submitting applications. The School itself is also known as Physique-Chimie or simply PC.

ESPCI Paris nurtures relationships with many industrial partners such as Schlumberger, Rhodia, Total, Thales, Arkema, Michelin, Withings, which sponsors groups of students and has research contracts with ESPCI laboratories. ESPCI Paris also has partnerships with L'Oréal and Saint-Gobain for professional recruitment.

Françoise Brochard-Wyart

Françoise Brochard-Wyart is a French theoretical physicist. She was born in 1944 in Saint-Étienne in France. Currently she is a professor of theoretical soft matter physics at the Curie Institute

Guy Deutscher (physicist)

Guy Deutscher is a professor emeritus of physics at Tel-Aviv University, Israel. His area of research is experimental solid-state physics and superconductivity.

He completed his dissertation under the direction of the theoretical physicist Pierre Gilles de Gennes at the University of Paris-Sud in 1967 as a member of "the Orsay group on superconductivity".

Jacques Prost

Jacques Prost, born in 1946 in Bourg-en-Bresse, is a French physicist, General director of École supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles de la ville de Paris, member of the French Academy of Sciences.Alumni of the École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud (sciences) (1965), Jacques Prost studied at Harvard University and founded and head (1987–1995) the "Theoretical Physico-Chemistry" Group of the ESPCI ParisTech under the direction of Pierre-Gilles de Gennes. His group studied liquid crystal and soft matter properties. In 1996, he founded the group "Physical Chemistry Curie" lab at the Curie Institute (Paris). His group studies physical approaches to biological problems and describes cell motion, molecular motors, the properties of biological membranes and protein adhesion.

Jacques Prost was the scientific advisor to Elf Aquitaine from 1990 to 1999. He is a member of the French Academy of Sciences since 2007. Jacques Prost has been the General director of ESPCI ParisTech, since 2003.

Ludwik Leibler

Ludwik Leibler, born in 1952 is a Polish physicist. He is Professor of École supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles de la ville de Paris (ESPCI ParisTech) and member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Ludwik Leibler received his PhD in 1976 in Theoretical Physics from Warsaw University, and then spent two years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Collège de France in Paris under the direction of Pierre-Gilles de Gennes. He is a researcher in Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) which he joined first in Stasbourg then in Paris where he worked on theoretical and experimental aspects of polymer self-assembly and dynamics, interfaces, gels and charged polymers. From 1996 to 2003 he was the founding director of a joint laboratory between CNRS and chemical company Elf Atochem (later Arkema) which regrouped researchers from academia and industry. In 2001 he became professor of Soft Matter and Chemistry at École Supérieure de Physique et Chimie Industrielles in Paris where his research interests include influence of molecular disorder on mesoscopic structure and properties of polymer materials, impact resistance, fracture and adhesion, design of stimuli responsive materials and supramolecular chemistry.

Dr. Leibler is a member of National Academy of Engineering, recipient of CNRS Silver Medal, France IBM Prize in Material Science, the Polymer Physics prize of the American Physical Society (2006) and the Polymer Chemistry Award of the American Chemical Society (2007).

Marvin L. Cohen

Marvin L. Cohen (born Montreal on March 3, 1935) is a Canadian-born University Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Nobel laureate Robert B. Laughlin studied under John D. Joannopoulos, a student of Cohen's.

Cohen received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1964, under Professor Jim Phillips. He has received the Oliver E. Buckley Prize in 1979, the Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize in 1994, the National Medal of Science in 2001, and the Dickson Prize in Science in 2011. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and in 2005, he served as President of the American Physical Society. He is noted for studies of materials, especially semiconductors, which are the basis for computers and Internet lasers From the top down

Top physical scientists by h-index:


1. Ed Witten 124

(Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)

2. Marvin Cohen 102

(University of California, Berkeley)

3. Philip Warren Anderson 102

(Princeton University)

4. Manuel Cardona 100

(Max Planck Institute for Solid

State Research, Stuttgart, Germany)

5. Pierre-Gilles de Gennes 88

(ESPCI, Paris)

Matteucci Medal

The Matteucci Medal is an Italian award for physicists, named after Carlo Matteucci. It was established to award physicists for their fundamental contributions. Under an Italian Royal Decree dated July 10, 1870, the Italian Society of Sciences was authorized to receive a donation from Carlo Matteucci for the establishment of the Prize.

Matteucci MedalistsSource: Italian Society of Sciences

Patrick Tabeling

Patrick Tabeling is a french physicist, microfluidics pioneer in France, professor at the École supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles de la ville de Paris (ESPCI ParisTech). He has published more than 181 articles in prestigious peer reviewed journals and his work has been cited more than 7000 times.

He is the future director of the Pierre Gilles de Gennes Institute for Microfluidics (IPGG), an interdisciplinary research institution in Paris which will regroup more than 100 expert researchers.

Polymer physics

Polymer physics is the field of physics that studies polymers, their fluctuations, mechanical properties, as well as the kinetics of reactions involving degradation and polymerisation of polymers and monomers respectively.While it focuses on the perspective of condensed matter physics, polymer physics is originally a branch of statistical physics. Polymer physics and polymer chemistry are also related with the field of polymer science, where this is considered the applicative part of polymers.

Polymers are large molecules and thus are very complicated for solving using a deterministic method. Yet, statistical approaches can yield results and are often pertinent, since large polymers (i.e., polymers with a large number of monomers) are describable efficiently in the thermodynamic limit of infinitely many monomers (although the actual size is clearly finite).

Thermal fluctuations continuously affect the shape of polymers in liquid solutions, and modeling their effect requires using principles from statistical mechanics and dynamics. As a corollary, temperature strongly affects the physical behavior of polymers in solution, causing phase transitions, melts, and so on.

The statistical approach for polymer physics is based on an analogy between a polymer and either a Brownian motion, or other type of a random walk, the self-avoiding walk. The simplest possible polymer model is presented by the ideal chain, corresponding to a simple random walk. Experimental approaches for characterizing polymers are also common, using polymer characterization methods, such as size exclusion chromatography, viscometry, dynamic light scattering, and Automatic Continuous Online Monitoring of Polymerization Reactions (ACOMP) for determining the chemical, physical, and material properties of polymers. These experimental methods also helped the mathematical modeling of polymers and even for a better understanding of the properties of polymers.

Flory is considered the first scientist establishing the field of polymer physics.

French scientists contributed a lot since the 70s (e.g. Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, J. des Cloizeaux).

Doi and Edwards wrote a very famous book in polymer physics.

Russian and Soviet schools of physics (I. M. Lifshitz, A. Yu. Grosberg, A.R. Khokhlov ) have been very active in the development of polymer physics.

Quasielastic neutron scattering

Quasielastic neutron scattering (QENS) designates a limiting case of inelastic neutron scattering, characterized by energy transfers being small compared to the incident energy of the scattered particles. In a more strict meaning, it denotes scattering processes where dynamics in the sample (such as diffusive dynamics) lead to a broadening of the incident neutron spectrum, in contrast to, e.g., the scattering from a diffusionless crystal, where the scattered neutron energy spectrum consists of an elastic line (corresponding to no energy transfer with the sample) and a number of well-separated inelastic lines due to the creation or annihilation of phonons with specific energies.

The term quasielastic scattering was originally coined in nuclear physics. It was applied to thermal neutron scattering since the early 1960s, notably in an article by Leon van Hove and in a highly cited one by Pierre Gilles de Gennes.QENS is typically investigated on high-resolution spectrometers (neutron backscattering, neutron time-of-flight scattering, neutron spin echo).

It is used to investigate topics like

solid-state diffusion (e.g. hydrogen in metals)

slow modes in crystals (e.g. methyl group rotation)

relaxation of viscous liquids

Quasielastic scattering

In physics, quasielastic scattering designates a limiting case of inelastic scattering, characterized by energy transfers being small compared to the incident energy of the scattered particles.

The term was originally coined in nuclear physics.It was applied to thermal neutron scattering by Leon van Hove and Pierre Gilles de Gennes

(quasielastic neutron scattering, QENS).

Finally, it is sometimes used for dynamic light scattering (also known by the more expressive term photon correlation spectroscopy).

Ramin Golestanian

Ramin Golestanian (Persian: رامین گلستانیان‎) is a professor at the Department of Physics and the Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics at Oxford University. He is a fellow of St Cross College and is affiliated with the Oxford Centre for Soft and Biological Matter. In 2014 he was awarded the Holweck Prize for his "pioneering contributions to the field of active soft matter, particularly microscopic swimmers and active colloids". In 2017 he was awarded the Pierre-Gilles de Gennes Lecture Prize.He grew up in Tehran and graduated from Alborz High School in 1989. In the same year, he won a bronze medal at the 20th International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) in Poland. This was the first time Iran took part in this international competition. He obtained his B.Sc. from Sharif University of Technology (1993), and his M.Sc. (1995) and Ph.D. (1998) from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences (IASBS). He has been a Visiting Scholar at MIT, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UCSB, Joliot Chair and CNRS Visiting Professor at ESPCI, and Visiting Professor at College de France. Before joining Oxford, he held academic positions at IASBS and the University of Sheffield.


Reptation is the thermal motion of very long linear, entangled macromolecules in polymer melts or concentrated polymer solutions. Derived from the word reptile, reptation suggests the movement of entangled polymer chains as being analogous to snakes slithering through one another. Pierre-Gilles de Gennes introduced (and named) the concept of reptation into polymer physics in 1971 to explain the dependence of the mobility of a macromolecule on its length. Reptation is used as a mechanism to explain viscous flow in an amorphous polymer. Sir Sam Edwards and Masao Doi later refined reptation theory. Similar phenomena also occur in proteins.Two closely related concepts are Reptons and Entanglement. A repton is a mobile point residing in the cells of a lattice, connected by bonds. Entanglement means the topological restriction of molecular motion by other chains.

Rhodia (company)

Rhodia was a group specialized in fine chemistry, synthetic fibers and polymers which was acquired by the Belgian Solvay group after a successful tender offer completed in September 2011. The company served the consumer goods, automotive, energy, manufacturing and processes and electronics markets, and had 65 production sites worldwide, four research centers and four joint laboratories.

Soft matter

Soft matter or soft condensed matter is a subfield of condensed matter comprising a variety of physical systems that are deformed or structurally altered by thermal or mechanical stress of the magnitude of thermal fluctuations. They include liquids, colloids, polymers, foams, gels, granular materials, liquid crystals, and a number of biological materials. These materials share an important common feature in that predominant physical behaviors occur at an energy scale comparable with room temperature thermal energy. At these temperatures, quantum aspects are generally unimportant.

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, who has been called the "founding father of soft matter," received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1991 for discovering that methods developed for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalized to the more complex cases found in soft matter, in particular, to the behaviors of liquid crystals and polymers.

École de physique des Houches

L’École de Physique des Houches (the Physics School of Les Houches) was founded in 1951 by a young French scientist, Cécile DeWitt-Morette.

Historically the first lessons were given in 1951 by Léon van Hove on quantum mechanics. The conditions were very spartan with the lessons lasting eight weeks in alpine chalets devoid of all comforts, a few kilometers from the village of Les Houches.

Soon, the school rapidly attracted the greatest names of modern physics, such as Enrico Fermi, Wolfgang Pauli, Murray Gell-Mann and John Bardeen amongst others. The young students, then unknown, included such future scientists as Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, Georges Charpak, and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, all future winners of the Nobel prize for Physics, as well as mathematician Alain Connes, future winner of the Fields medal.

École nationale de chimie physique et biologie de Paris

The École nationale de chimie physique et biologie de Paris (ENCPB), renamed in 2009 "lycée Pierre-Gilles-de-Gennes - ENCPB" after physician Pierre-Gilles de Gennes died in 2007, is a public secondary and higher school specialising in technical and scientific subjects and preparatory classes to the grandes écoles (CPGE). It is located at 11 rue Pirandello in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.

Laureates of the Wolf Prize in Physics
1991 Nobel Prize laureates
Physiology or Medicine
Economic Sciences

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