Walter Kohn: 1923 - 2016

Photo: Wikimedia/ Markus Pössel

Photo: Wikimedia/Markus Pössel

The Embassy of Austria and the Office of Science and Technology Austria (OSTA) are deeply saddened by the death of Professor Walter Kohn, who passed away on April 20, 2016.

Professor Walter Kohn’s arguably biggest achievement was the awarding of the 1998 chemistry Nobel prize to him and his colleague John Pople for developing the density functional theory. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences acknowledged that Prof. Kohn made lengthy calculations obsolete, revolutionizing computer-based calculations. The pair effectively developing “…the entire quantum-chemical methodology now used in various branches of chemistry.”

His alma mater University of California, Santa Barbara echoed the sentiment of the Academy remembering Kohn as a:


"…condensed matter theorist who made seminal contributions to the understanding of the electronic structure of materials, he revolutionized scientists’ approach to the electronic structure of atoms, molecules, and solid materials in physics, chemistry, and materials science."

University of California, Santa Barbara, April 20, 2016

Prof. Walter Kohn toasting the Austrian winning team of the 2013 Solar Decathlon | Photo: OSTA Washington

Prof. Walter Kohn toasting the Austrian winning team of the 2013 Solar Decathlon | Photo: OSTA Washington

The OSTA remembers Prof. Walter Kohn especially as an honorary guest and curious mind at Austrian Research and Innovation Talk 2013. At the annual conference, Prof. Kohn was able to meet and congratulate the winning Austrian team of the Solar Decathlon 2013.

The Austrian Academy of Sciences recalls the extraordinary biography of Walter Kohn who helped understand the pain inflicted by the Third Reich. Kohn was born in Vienna, Austria in 1923 to Jewish parents. He managed to escape the country thanks to the Kindertransport operation in the 1930s, following Austria’s annexation by Third Reich. Consequently, drawing lessons from the expulsion of Jewish scientists remains crucial, as Anton Zeillinger, President of the Academy of Sciences stresses. Heinz Fischer, the President of Austria underlined that Kohn's life was marked by "...scientific excellence and clear ethical principles..."

Text: OSTA