The 2021 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry, likely the most prestigious science prize in the USA, has been bestowed on Roberto Car and Michele Parrinello by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, for the groundbreaking work on molecular simulation they did at SISSA in the winter 1984-85.
By developing a computer algorithm that allows one to perform realistic simulations of atomic interactions and dynamics using the laws of quantum mechanics, the two physicists completely revolutionised computational chemistry and physics, with applications that span from drug design to materials engineering and discovery, from planetary sciences to nano sciences and technologies. The legacy of Car and Parrinello is still extremely lively at SISSA, in terms of both fundamental research and applied computer science and mathematics: SISSA is in fact the home of Quantum ESPRESSO, the most popular suite of open-source codes for the quantum simulation of matter, featuring the original Car-Parrinello code, as well as many other methodological innovations developed since the winter of 1984-85.
Roberto Car is today a theoretical chemist at Princeton University, while Parrinello is a computational chemist at ETH Zurich and USI Lugano, but their collaboration is still continuing. Their story is available here.
The Award Ceremony took place virtually on 29 April 2021 and can be watched here.
The Franklin Institute Awards
Since 1824, The Franklin Institute of Philadelphia has honored the legacy of Benjamin Franklin by presenting awards for outstanding achievements in science, engineering, and industry. Past laureates include Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Nikola Tesla, Stephen Hawking, the Wright Brothers, Bill Gates, and Albert Einstein.