Nobel laureate Levitt did main work 'when he was 20'

October 9, 2013
Photos of scientists (L-R) Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel are displayed on a screen at a press conference to announce the laureates of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on October 9, 2013 in Stockholm

One of the three winners of the Nobel Chemistry Prize, Michael Levitt, told AFP Wednesday he was essentially awarded for work he did when he was 20 years old.

Levitt, speaking from his California home, said he felt like he had a "triple espresso" after being informed that the prize was his for research done decades ago.

"I was doing work before my post doc when I was 20 years old to write a computer programme. I guess I wrote a pretty good programme," Levitt, now 66, chuckled.

He said it was "essentially" this programme, written decades ago, that was being honoured with Wednesday's prize, but added that people continue to benefit to this day.

He said he thought he was dreaming when the call came from Stockholm in the middle of the night.

"I thought I was dreaming. My cell phone never rings. I usually only get text messages or emails. At first I thought it was a wrong number," he said of the call that came just before the official announcement at 2:45 am California time (0945 GMT).

Levitt said his first reaction was "disbelief, as it always is. My heart rate jumped."

Levitt, a US-British citizen who now works at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, won the Nobel together with Martin Karplus, a US-Austrian citizen, and Arieh Warshel of the US and Israel.

They were honoured for devising computer models to simulate chemical processes, providing a revolutionary tool for drug designers and engineers.

Levitt said he would be attending the gala Nobel Prize ceremony in December in Stockholm with his family, including his 98-year-old mother—who was "speechless" over his prize—and a two-year-old grandson.

Explore further: Nobel chemistry prize to be announced in Stockholm

Related Stories

Nobel chemistry prize to be announced in Stockholm

October 10, 2012

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will announce the winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday, capping this year's science awards before the Nobel spotlight moves to literature and peace.

Recommended for you

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

Getting under the skin of a medieval mystery

November 23, 2015

A simple PVC eraser has helped an international team of scientists led by bioarchaeologists at the University of York to resolve the mystery surrounding the tissue-thin parchment used by medieval scribes to produce the first ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.