Richard P. Feynman


1997 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology
Awarded to Teams at IBM Zurich and at NASA Ames

sponsored by the Foresight Institute

Winners of the 1997 Feynman Prizes

The winners of the 1997 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology were announced on Thursday, November 6, at the Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology. For the first time, the prize was divided into one prize for experimental work and one prize for theoretical work. The prize for experimental work was won by a team at IBM Research Division Zurich Research Laboratory and at CEMES-CNRS (France), for work using scanning probe microscopes to manipulate molecules. The prize for theoretical work was won by a team at NASA Ames Research Center for work in computational nanotechnology.

The winners of the 1997 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology for Experimental Work:

  • James Gimzewski (IBM)
  • Reto Schlittler (IBM)
  • Christian Joachim (CEMES-CNRS)

The winners of the 1997 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology for Theoretical Work:

  • Charles Bauschlicher
  • Stephen Barnard
  • Creon Levit
  • Glenn Deardorff
  • Al Globus
  • Jie Han
  • Richard Jaffe
  • Alessandra Ricca
  • Marzio Rosi
  • Deepak Srivastava
  • H. Thuemmel

1997 Feynman Prizes for Theoretical and Experimental Molecular Nanotechnology

Two prizes in the amount of $5,000 each were awarded to the researchers whose recent work has most advanced the development of molecular nanotechnology. This year separate prizes were awarded for theoretical work and for experimental work. The prizes were given at the Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology, held November 5-8, 1997.

This prize is in honor of Richard P. Feynman who, in 1959, gave a visionary talk at Caltech in which he said “The problems of chemistry and biology can be greatly helped if our ability to see what we are doing, and to do things on an atomic level, is ultimately developed—a development which I think cannot be avoided.”

Distinctions between the annually awarded Feynman Prizes and the Feynman Grand Prize

Feynman Prizes
Experimental $5000 Presented to the best
thesis or refereed paper
at the 1997 Conference.
Theoretical $5000
Grand Prize
$250,000 Presented for demonstration
of 50 nanometer 8 bit adder
and 100 nanometer robot arm.

The 1997 Feynman Prize is the most recent in a series of annually awarded prizes for accomplishment in molecular nanotechnology. Both the annual Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology and the Feynman Grand Prize are sponsored by the Foresight Institute to encourage and accelerate the development of molecular nanotechnology. Both are named in honor of Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman. However, these prizes differ in focus, frequency of award, and scale.

The 1997 and other annual Prizes (originally designated the Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology) recognize recent achievements that contribute to the development of nanotechnology. The nature of the achievement is not specified in advance, and the judges choose from among the entries submitted which one most advanced the field during the preceding several years. In contrast, the Grand Prize will be awarded at some undetermined date in the future when someone builds two specified working devices, an accomplishment that will signal a crucial milestone on the road to a mature molecular manufacturing technology.

The annual Prize was awarded in 1993 and 1995, and now in 1997. Henceforth it will be awarded every year until the Grand Prize is awarded, at which point the series of annual Prizes will be finished.

The first annual Prize was $5000, the second was $10,000, and the third consisted of two prizes of $5,000 each, awarded for separate accomplishments in theoretical and in experimental areas. The Grand Prize will be at least $250,000.

Relevant Research Areas

Research areas considered relevant to molecular nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing include but are not limited to:

  • supramolecular chemistry and self assembly
  • proximal probes (e.g. STM, AFM)
  • biochemistry and protein engineering
  • computational chemistry and molecular modeling
  • natural molecular machines (e.g. flagellar motor, ribosome)
  • materials science

Special consideration will be given to submissions clearly leading toward the construction of a general-purpose molecular assembler. Applicants wishing further information on the field of the prize are referred to the book Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation (Wiley Interscience, 1992).

Selection Committee for the 1997 Prize

Previous Feynman Prize winners

The first Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology was awarded in 1993 at the Third Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology to Dr. Charles Musgrave (see the story in Update 17). An article describing his prize-winning theoretical work on a hydrogen abstraction tool for nanotechnology is available on the Web.

The 1995 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology was awarded in 1995 at the Fourth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology to Dr. Nadrian C. Seeman for his pioneering experimental work on the synthesis of 3-dimensional objects from DNA. This award is described in an article in Update 23, an article on Ralph Merkle’s Web site, and an article on the UniSci Web Site.

Submission Procedures

The following were the requirements for submission of work to be considered for the 1997 Feynman Prizes:

Submissions consist of one or more of the following:

  • an approved thesis or dissertation (bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D.)
  • an article published in a refereed journal
  • a paper approved for publication in a refereed journal

In addition, each submission must include a one-page summary of the work and its relevance to the goal of molecular nanotechnology and/or molecular manufacturing. (If the journal article submitted has multiple authors, the applicant’s role in the research must be stated.) Summaries may be up to 400 words in length.

Submissions should be mailed to the Foresight Institute at the postal address below, to arrive by August 29, 1997. One copy of the paper or thesis and five copies of the one-page summary are required. The summary must include the applicant’s address, telephone, and (if possible) fax number and email address. Finalists may be contacted for additional information. The prizewinner must be present at the conference to accept the prize.

Applications may also be based upon more than one research paper, in which case copies of each paper should be submitted.

Applications will also be accepted on behalf of a group of collaborating workers.

For further information, contact the Foresight Institute