Egypt bids farewell to Nobel scientist Zuwail

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi on Sunday led a military funeral for Egyptian-American Nobel Prize-winning chemist Ahmad Zuwail, who had died in the US last week.

A casket containing Zuwail’s body was covered with the Egyptian flag as it was carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage led by soldiers carrying floral wreaths at the funeral procession held in the Cairo suburban area of Al Tajmuh Al Khamis.

Senior state officials, including Prime Minister Sharif Esmail and members of Zuwail’s family attended the funeral that followed a special prayer for the deceased.

The body was later Sunday transported inside an ambulance to the Zuwail City for Science and Technology, a research and academic institution in a western Cairo suburb, for a symbolic funeral.

Hundreds of Zuwail’s students, colleagues and ordinary people held a prayer for him in the institution before his burial in a nearby grave.

Zuwail became the first Arab scientist to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1999.

Following the win, Egypt’s then president Hosni Mubarak awarded him the Grand Collar of the Nile, the country’s prestigious medal. Recipients of this medal are entitled to military funerals on their death.

Zuwail died on Tuesday reportedly of respiratory problems. He was 70.

He is known as the father of femtochemistry, a branch of physical chemistry that dissects chemical reactions into minuscule time measurements.

He is also credited with developing a rapid laser technique that has enabled scientists to study the actions of atoms during chemical reactions.

The accomplishment has created a new area of physical chemistry known as femtochemistry.

Zuwail was born in the Egyptian Delta province of Damanhur in 1946.

He obtained his bachelor and master’s degrees in chemistry from the state-run Alexandria University before travelling to the US.

He joined the California Institute of Technology in 1976 and became a US citizen six years later.

In recent years, he frequently visited Egypt where he set up the City of Zuwail for Science and Technology.

On Saturday, Al Sissi urged Egyptians to donate for completion of the project whose cost is estimated at 4 billion Egyptian pounds (Dh1.65 billion). He added that Zuwail was able to collect LE300 million before his death.

The institution, which was officially inaugurated in late 2011, has the stated mission of bringing about effective participation in the 21st century research and upgrade local technologies to world standards.

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