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Japanese Zen philosophy includes the paradoxical notion of an empty mirror. This intriguing idea captures the goal of overcoming one's feelings and preferences to achieve a higher spiritual end. The concept applies equally well to individuals who put the needs of society before any personal ambitions.

In this respect, we should feel quite comfortable in saying that Ryoji Noyori's mirror is quite empty. He has spent more than 40 years in selfless devotion to science, engaged in work that has yielded substantial technical advances with highly practical implications. Two years ago he shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry for these accomplishments, but he is eager to extend this dramatic honour to the members of what he calls his research family - colleagues who occupy his home university in the city of Nagoya as well as those in many other institutions around the world.

Mais à l'inverse, on peut dire également que le miroir du professeur Noyori renvoie une image bien définie, celle d'un homme qui a consacré la majeure partie de sa carrière à définir les contours de molécules spécifiques, apportant des solutions nouvelles et exaltantes à des problèmes auxquels la chimie était confrontée depuis longtemps. Ce faisant, il a réussi à se distinguer.

Chemists refer to mirrored molecules as "chiral", similar in structure but opposite in physical orientation, just like our left and right hands. This difference is crucial to the physical behaviour of these molecules, which can be utterly different from one another. The chiral form of a highly beneficial drug, for example, can turn out to be a deadly poison.

Chiral molecules are often produced together, using techniques that can make them all but impossible to separate from one another. In fact, many potentially important industrial enterprises have been frustrated by the inability to sort out chiral compounds in an efficient way. While pursuing his doctorate in the 1960s, however, Professor Noyori encountered an interesting example of a process that did yield a single chiral version of a complex organic metallic compound. This discovery has captured his imagination and his attention ever since.

Peu après son admission aux études postdoctorales à Harvard, on a demandé au professeur Noyori de diriger un nouveau laboratoire de chimie organique à l'université de Nagoya. Il a réussi à mener à bien les deux entreprises, faisant progresser les recherches à Nagoya et créant des relations de travail fructueuses avec ses collaborateurs américains, ce qui devait éventuellement le mener au Prix Nobel.

Dans les années 1970, les travaux du professeur Noyori ont abouti à la création d'une molécule chirale appelée BINAP. S'il a tout de suite trouvé la forme complexe de cette molécule d'une saisissante beauté, il a été encore plus impressionné par ses propriétés : elle permettait de synthétiser de façon asymétrique de nombreuses matières en une seule forme chirale. Cette trouvaille ouvrait de nouveaux horizons en chimie et en génie chimique, et rendait les procédés déjà connus beaucoup plus efficaces.

This innovation was especially welcome in Nagoya, which for hundreds of years has been a major Japanese manufacturing centre. Professor Noyori has been a faculty member at the university there since 1968, as well as Dean of the Graduate School of Science and Director of the Chemical Instrument Centre. In addition to participating in the editorial boards of more than 30 international journals, he has also served as Science Advisor and Member of the Scientific Council with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. He is currently Director of Nagoya University's Research Centre for Materials Science.

Au plan international, la réussite du professeur Nayori a inspiré toute la communauté scientifique nipponne. Il fait partie des quatre chercheurs japonais qui ont reçu un Prix Nobel au cours des trois dernières années, une performance qui rend justice à des méthodes de recherche couronnées de succès, qui sont maintenant la norme pour le 21e siècle.

For this reason, Chancellor, in the name of the Senate of the University of Ottawa, I present to you for the degree of Doctor of the University, Ryoji Noyori, a figure who needs no mirror to reflect the finest qualities to be found in any of us.

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