Walter Kohn, Austrian physicist

Walter Kohn, Austrian physicist

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Credit: VOLKER STEGER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Walter Kohn (born 1923), Austrian-American physicist. Walter Kohn is Professor of physics at the University of California in Santa Barbara, USA. In 1998 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with John A. Pope. Kohn's papers in 1964 and 1965 led to the density functional theory of quantum chemistry which simplified the mathematics in descriptions of the bonding of atoms. Previous attempts to calculate the properties of molecules were based on the description of the motion of individual electrons. The density functional theory proved it was sufficient to know only the average number of electrons located at any one point in space. The simplicity of the method makes it possible to study very large molecules and is commonly used by chemistry researchers today.

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