Ilya Prigogine, the Brusselator received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Awarded the 1977 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his theory of "dissipative structures" in the field of thermodynamics, Ilya Prigogine is one of the most eminent scientists in Belgium.
"Prigogine's great contribution to thermodynamic theory is its extension to systems that are far from equilibrium," explained the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. "Prigogine showed that a new form of ordered structures could exist in such conditions. He called them dissipative structures, to stress that they only exist in conjunction with their environment."
Extremely open-minded, he refused to remain confined to just one area of knowledge. Indeed, he used to enjoy explaining the many interactions determining how different disciplines understand the world, drawing analogies from his own life and his state of mind: A young Jewish immigrant from Moscow, exiled in Germany and then in Brussels in 1929, he wanted to understand what led people to have to flee their country. He started by taking an interest in politics but was forced to study law. Wishing to understand the behaviour of a defendant, he studied psychology. He struggled with the functioning of the human brain in his understanding of behavioural psychology and science and as a result he studied biology, chemistry, and finally biochemistry. Going even further to understand chemical interactions, he studied particle physics. After physics, he progressed to astrophysics and cosmology. This led him to consider the fundamental questions: matter, void, time and its one-way direction (time's arrow). To understand time's arrow, he studied dissipative structures and created the Brusselator.
Ilya Prigogine rejected all forms of determinism in physical processes. He appealed for a general probabilistic representation that allowed room for phenomenological exceptions. "The paths of nature cannot be foreseen with certainty, there is an inevitable share of chance: bifurcating nature is that in which small differences, insignificant fluctuations can, if they occur in the right circumstances, take over the entire system, result in a new system of functioning," he explained.
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