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Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (October 24, 1932 in Paris – May 18, 2007 in Orsay) was a French physicist and the Nobel laureate in 1991.

He was born in Paris, France and was home-schooled to the age of 12. Later, Gennes studied at the École Normale Supérieure. After leaving the École in 1955, he became a research engineer at the Saclay center of the Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique, working mainly on neutron scattering and magnetism, with advice from A. Abragam and J. Friedel. He defended his Ph.D. in 1957.

In 1959, he was a postdoctoral visitor with C. Kittel at the University of California, Berkeley, and then spent 27 months in the French Navy. In 1961, he was assistant professor in Orsay and soon started the Orsay group on superconductors. In 1968, he switched to studying liquid crystals.

In 1971, he became professor at the Collège de France, and participated to STRASCOL (a joint action of Strasbourg, Saclay and Collège de France) on polymer physics. From 1980 on, he became interested in interfacial problems : the dynamics of wetting and adhesion.

He was awarded the Lorentz Medal and Wolf Prize in 1990. In 1991, he received the Nobel Prize in physics. He was then director of the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris (ESPCI), a post he held from 1976 until his retirement in 2002.

P.G. de Gennes has also received the Holweck Prize from the joint French and British Physical Society; the Ampere Prize, French Academy of Science; the gold medal from the French CNRS; the Matteuci Medal, Italian Academy; the Harvey Prize, Israel; and polymer awards from both APS and ACS.

His Nobel Prize was awarded for "discovering that methods developed for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalized to more complex forms of matter, in particular to liquid crystals and polymer".

More recently, he worked on granular materials and on the nature of memory objects in the brain.

The complete list of P. G. de Gennes publications


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