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Egypt bids farewell to Nobel Prize-winning chemist

By AFP - Aug 07,2016 - Last updated at Aug 07,2016

CAIRO — Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian-American chemist Ahmed Zewail was given a state funeral with military honours on Sunday in Cairo attended by Egypt's president and top officials.

Zewail, who served as a science and technology adviser to US President Barack Obama, died on Tuesday in the United States aged 70.

A naturalised US citizen, Zewail won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1999 for his groundbreaking work in the study of chemical reactions in extremely short timescales.

Egypt organised two high-profile processions to bid Zewail farewell on Sunday before he was laid to rest.

President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, Al Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed Al Tayeb, Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi and Egyptian-British surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub attended one procession at a military complex.

Live footage on state television showed the scientist's coffin shrouded in an Egyptian flag and drawn by horses on a carriage flanked by men in military uniform.

The mourners marched inside the military complex in eastern Cairo to funeral music from a military band.

Mourners including Prime Minister Sharif Ismail, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and the defence minister then presented their condolences to Zewail's family.

The coffin was then transported by ambulance to the second procession from a university he founded at the Zewail City of Science and Technology.

Zewail was later buried in a family plot inside an Islamic-style tomb which his spokesman, Sherif Fouad, said he had bought just six months ago "as if he knew his time was nearing its end".

Family members, friends, fans and journalists were present at the burial when the body wrapped in a white cloth was lowered into the tomb.

Zewail was among four Egyptians to win a Nobel Prize and the country's first scientist to do so.


'Global citizen'


Former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat shared the peace prize in 1978 with the late Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin for reaching a historic peace deal between their two countries.

Novelist Naguib Mahfouz won the 1988 Nobel Prize for literature.

Mohamed El Baradei, then director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, received the 2005 peace prize for his efforts to promote the safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Zewail's work showed that it is possible using a laser technique to study in slow motion how atoms in a molecule move during a chemical reaction.

According to the Nobel Prize website, Zewail's work led to the birth of the research area called femtochemistry, "which enables us to understand why certain chemical reactions take place but not others".

His discoveries offered scientists greater insight into chemical and pharmacological processes with implications across a range of disciplines including human health, electronics and high precision machinery.

In 2009 Zewail was appointed to Obama's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, and later that year he was named the first US science envoy to the Middle East.

Until his death Zewail — who was married with four children — worked at the California Institute of Technology.

Caltech president Thomas Rosenbaum described Zewail as a “quintessential scholar and global citizen”.

Zewail was a member of several prestigious scientific institutions, including the National Academy of Sciences and the US American Academy of Art and Sciences.


He was also a fellow of London’s Royal Society.

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