From Matter to Life: Chemistry? Chemistry!

Date: 08 November 2010
Speaker: Prof. Jean-Marie Lehn


The evolution of the universe has generated more and more complex matter through self-organization, up to living and thinking matter. 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 between the molecules of inanimate matter and the highly complex molecular architectures and systems which make up living organisms. Synthetic chemistry has developed a very powerful set of methods for constructing ever more complex molecules. Supramolecular chemistry seeks to control the formation of molecular assembly by means of the interactions between the partners. The designed generation of organized architectures requires the handling of information at the molecular level in a sort of molecular programming, thus also linking chemistry with information science. The field of chemistry is the universe of all possible entities 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 chemistry and science in general will be presented.  

Speaker Bio

Prof. Jean-Marie Lehn

CityU's Chair Professor-at-Large, City University of Hong Kong 1987 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
ISIS, Université de Strasbourg
Professor at Collège de France

Professor 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 since 1979 he is Professor at the Collège de France in Paris. 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 also plays a fundamental role in biological processes.

Over the years his work led him 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 the chemistry of "self-organization" processes and more recently towards "adaptive chemistry".

Author of more than 850 scientific publications, Professor Lehn is a member of many academies and institutions. He has received numerous international honours and awards.