Patt Morrison Asks: Rosetta man Ahmed Zewail

Patt Morrison Asks: Rosetta man Ahmed Zewail

It's as if he has a superhero secret identity: On the Caltech campus, Ahmed Zewail is a mild-mannered Egyptian American professor of chemistry and physics who won the Nobel Prize for cracking the secrets of molecules with femtosecond spectroscopy (a femtosecond is to a second what one second is to 32 million years). In his other identity, he is Egypt's only Nobel laureate in science, a national hero and the inspiration for Egypt's new technical and academic complex, the Zewail City of Science and Technology. And he is one of a council of elders guiding the transition to democracy in his native Egypt -- a novel experience in a nation with millenniums of history.

Zewail is a man of...