In 1977 Pierre‐Gilles de Gennes of the Collège de France wrote an article for La Recherche about the Nobel Prize in Physics that had been awarded that year to John Van Vleck, Philip Anderson and Nevill Mott. In his article, de Gennes categorized each of the three Nobelists according to a scheme suggested to him by the wife of an English colleague: She classified physicists either as golf players, who patiently tap a single ball from hole to hole until the end of the game, or as tennis players, who bound around the court to hit the ball from all directions. By this definition de Gennes is a tennis player. In his career he has studied condensed matter in many forms: ferromagnets, superconductors, liquid crystals, polymers and, most recently, interfacial phenomena. Now this Frenchman has won the Nobel Prize, having been cited more for his overall style of play than for any unique stroke. In announcing the prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences recognized de Gennes for “discovering that methods developed for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalized to more complex forms of matter, in particular to liquid crystals and polymers.” De Gennes received his prize, worth $1 million, on 10 December.

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