Steps Towards Life: Chemistry!

Prof Jean-Marie Lehn, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study

The evolution of the universe has generated more and more complex forms of matter through self-organization, from particles up to living and thinking matter. Mankind has created science to unravel the ways and means by which matter has become organized up to a thinking organism in particular on our planet earth. Self-organization is the process by which steps towards life and thought have emerged. Animate as well as inanimate matter, living organisms as well as materials, are formed of molecules and of the organized entities resulting from the interaction of molecules with each other. Chemistry provides the bridge and unravels the steps from the molecules of inanimate matter and the highly complex molecular architectures and systems which make up living and thinking organisms. Molecular chemistry has developed a very powerful methods for constructing ever more complex molecules from atoms. Supramolecular chemistry seeks to understand and control the formation of complex molecular assemblies. The field of chemistry is the universe of all possible structures and transformations of molecular matter, of which those actually realized in nature represent just one world among all the worlds that await to be created.  Conceptual considerations on science in general will be presented. Science shapes the future of humanity !

Prof.Jean-Marie Lehn University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study,France

Jean-Marie Lehn was born in Rosheim, France in 1939. In 1970 he became Professor of Chemistry at the Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg and from 1979 to 2010 he was Professor at the Collège de France in Paris. He is presently Professor at the University of Strasbourg Institute of Advanced Study (USIAS). He shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1987 for his studies on the chemical basis of “molecular recognition” (i.e. the way in which a receptor molecule recognizes and selectively binds a substrate), which plays a fundamental role in biological processes.

Over the years his work led to the definition of a new field of chemistry, which he has proposed calling “supramolecular chemistry” as it deals with the complex entities formed by the association of two or more chemical species held together by non-covalent intermolecular forces, whereas molecular chemistry concerns the entities constructed from atoms linked by covalent bonds. Subsequently, the area developed into “constitutional dynamic chemistry” and “adaptive chemistry” along the way towards the science of “self-organization” processes.

Author of more than 950 scientific publications, Jean-Marie Lehn is a member of many academies and institutions. He has received numerous international honours and awards.