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Physicist Walter Kohn, UCSB Nobel Laureate, Dies at 93

Emeritus professor won award in 1998 for his development of the density-functional theory

Walter Kohn, an emeritus professor at UC Santa Barbara who was the university’s first Nobel laureate, died Wednesday night.
Walter Kohn, an emeritus professor at UC Santa Barbara who was the university’s first Nobel laureate, died Wednesday night. (UCSB photo)

Walter Kohn, an emeritus professor at UC Santa Barbara who was the university’s first Nobel laureate, died Wednesday night, the university confirmed Thursday.

He was 93, and had been in declining health the last year, according to Andrea Estrada, UCSB’s director of news and media relations.

Kohn’s family members were with him when he passed away, Estrada said.

Although he was primarily a physicist, Kohn received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1998 for his development of the density-functional theory, which revolutionized scientists' approach to the electronic structure of atoms, molecules and solid materials in physics, chemistry and materials science.

He was the first of six Nobel winners associated with UCSB.

Kohn received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Toronto, and received his Ph.D in physics from Harvard University.

He was a physics professor at UCSB from 1984 until 1991, and was director of the university’s Institute of Theoretical Physics from 1979 until 1984.

He previously taught at UC San Diego, Carnegie Mellon and Harvard.

Kohn held numerous honorary degrees and received many awards for his research. He also published more than 200 scholarly papers.

Information about funeral services was pending Thursday.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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