The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013 was awarded jointly to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems”.
In the 1970s, Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel laid the foundation for the powerful programs that are used to understand and predict chemical processes. Computer models mirroring real life have become crucial for most advances made in chemistry today.
The work of Karplus, Levitt and Warshel is ground-breaking in that they managed to make Newton’s classical physics work side-by-side with the fundamentally different quantum physics.
Previously, chemists had to choose to use either or. The strength of classical physics was that calculations were simple and could be used to model really large molecules. It’s weakness, it offered no way to simulate chemical reactions. For that purpose, chemists instead had to use quantum physics. But such calculations required enormous computing power and could therefore only be carried out for small molecules.
This year’s Nobel Laureates in chemistry took the best from both worlds and devised methods that use both classical and quantum physics.