Gerhard Ertl is a professor at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin. He received the $1.5 million prize for pioneering work in surface chemistry, which has applications across a broad array of fields. It helps explain the processes in manufacturing computer chips, in the function of automobiles' catalytic converters and on the surface of stratospheric ice crystals that have implications for global warming.
The prize was announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Ertl's 71st birthday, and he said in remarks broadcast from Stockholm that winning the prize "is the best birthday present that you can give to somebody." He was born in 1936 in Bad Cannstadt, Germany.