The 1998 Chemistry Nobel laureate Professor Walter Kohn, Santa Barbara, CA, USA, passed away on April 19, 2016. He played the leading role in the development of density functional theory and received, with John Pople, the Nobel Prize in chemistry in recognition of their “contributions to the understandings of the electronic properties of materials”.
Walter Kohn, born in Vienna, Austria, in 1923, to Jewish parents shortly before Nazi Germany annexed the country. He escaped thanks to the Kindertransport operation and lived with a surrogate family in Sussex, UK, before being interned in 1940 because of his nationality. In internment camps in the UK and Canada, Kohn was educated by various academics.
Kohn began undergraduate studies in physics and maths at the University of Toronto, Canada, in 1942. He gained his Ph.D. from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, under the supervision of theoretical physicist Julian Schwinger. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1950, Kohn went to Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. In 1960 Kohn joined the University of California (UC), San Diego, CA, USA. Since 1979, he is at UC Santa Barbara, CA, USA, where he served as the founding director of the Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Selected publications by Kohn:
- Cyclotron Resonance and de Haas-van Alphen Oscillations of an Interacting Electron Gas,
Physic. Rev. 1961, 123, 1242–1244.
- Thoughts about density functional theory in 1998,
J. Comp.Chem. 1999, 20(1), 1.
- An essay on condensed matter physics in the twentieth century,
Reviews of Modern Physics 1999, 71(2), S59–S77.
- Density-functional theory for superconductors,
L. N. Oliveira, E. K. Gross, W. Kohn,
Phys Rev Lett. 1988, 60(23), 2430–2433.
- The Power of the Sun (Science movie on solar electricity),
Walter Kohn, Alan Heeger, John Cleese,