Jean-Marie Lehn

Jean -Marie Lehn ( born September 30, 1939 in Rosheim, Alsace ) is a French chemist. Along with Donald Cram and Charles Pedersen in 1987 he was awarded for his work in the research field of supramolecular chemistry with the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.


Jean -Marie Lehn was born on September 30, 1939 in the town of Rosheim (France). His father, Pierre Lehn, worked as a baker and had a great passion for music. His mother, Marie Lehn, was a housewife and took care with the bakery. Jean -Marie Lehn had four brothers of whom he was the eldest. Together with the Next -born, he often helped out in the store and supported his mother. Like his father, he played the organ and piano, while his passion grew to the natural sciences. 1950 to 1957 he studied Latin, Greek, German, English, French literature, philosophy and science. In July 1957, he got his bachelor's degree in philosophy and in September in the experimental sciences. He specialized further in the field of physics, chemistry, natural sciences, and in 1960 a junior member at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. A short time later (1961 ) he wrote his first scientific treatise on the induced shift of proton NMR signals of substituents of the steroid derivatives. Subsequently, he received his doctorate in chemistry in 1963 in Strasbourg and then went for a visiting researcher at Harvard University, where he worked on the synthesis of vitamin B12 with Nobel Laureate Robert B. Woodward. This phase should be one of the crucial stages in his life as a scientist. He took a course in quantum mechanics and led his first calculations together with Roald Hoffmann - thus he witnessed in the development of the Woodward -Hoffmann rules. In 1965 he married his wife Sylvie Lederer, with whom he had two sons together, David ( b. 1966) and Mathias (b. 1969). In 1966 he became assistant professor in 1970 and professor of chemistry at the Louis Pasteur University of Strasbourg; He is also a professor of molecular interactions at the Collège de France in Paris since 1979. He is also a director of the Institute of Nanotechnology in Karlsruhe and visiting professor at ETH Zurich and at the Universities of Harvard, Cambridge, Barcelona and Frankfurt. Since 1985, Lehn member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, and since 2008 the National Academy of Sciences.


He has published more than 400 scientific articles and is one of the pioneers in the creation of a new research field of supramolecular chemistry. In contrast to the molecular chemistry, which are the units of atoms, and which are held together by covalent bonds resulting from the supramolecular chemistry, by association of several molecules, complex units which are linked with non-covalent intermolecular forces to each other. From supramolecular chemistry, the chemistry of the " self-organizing " processes and the adaptive chemistry later developed.


Lehn was awarded in 1982 with the Gay - Lussac- Humboldt Prize. He received 1987 together with Donald J. Cram and Charles Pedersen received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development and use of molecules with structure-specific interactions of high selectivity and the study of polycyclic cryptate cage molecules.

He was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, First Class, 2001.

Other prices include: Paracelsus Prize, Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Karl Ziegler Prize, Ettore Majorana - Price, Davy Medal of the Royal Society, Lavoisier Medal of the Société Française de Chimie.

Honorary doctorates from over twenty universities, as well as membership in numerous academies and scientific societies.

Work areas

Supramolecular chemistry, molecular recognition and self-organization, bioorganic chemistry, nanotechnologies

Works (selection)

  • J.-M. Lehn: Supramolecular Chemistry - Concepts and Perspectives, Wiley -VCH, Weinheim 1995, ISBN 978-3-527-29311-7.