History of the prize
Established in 2008, the de Gennes Prize, formerly the Prize for Materials Chemistry, honours the work of Nobel laureate Pierre-Gilles de Gennes.
Born in Paris in 1932 de Gennes went on to become a research engineer at the Atomic Energy Centre, Saclay, where he received his PhD in magnetism in 1957. After completing his postdoctoral training in California he returned to France as an assistant professor at the University of Paris in Orsay. During this time he completed highly influential work in the area of surface superconductivity and wrote the classic book Superconductivity of metals and alloys.
His later research interests included liquid crystals, polymer physics, and the physical chemistry of adhesion. He even went on to his investigate the dynamics of wetting to help improve the growing of grapes for wine, demonstrating his keen sense of humour as applied to his work.
In 1991 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for "discovering that methods for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalised to more complex forms of matter, in particular to liquid crystals and polymers". His peers considered him to be one of 'the giants in physics and a beacon to the field of liquid crystals'.
After receiving this accolade, de Gennes shared his enthusiasm for his subject and visited an impressive 200 schools between 1992 and 1994.
From 2020, as part of a series of changes following an independent review of the Royal Society of Chemistry's recognition programmes, this prize (odd years) will alternate with the John B Goodenough Award (even years).