Michel Verdaguer#

Laudatio by Gatteschi Dante#


Verdaguer as outstanding scientist

Following a career as secondary school teacher, assistant professor at ENS-Saint-Cloud and PhD thesis in the laboratory of Olivier Kahn, a pioneer in Molecular Magnetism, Verdaguer became Professor at University Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris in 1988. Verdaguer’s research focuses on molecular magnetism. He has developed a rational approach to new systems, hom quantum chemistry to applications, from Haldane’s gap systems to room temperature magnets (Prussian blue analogues).

His two best recognized achievements are (i) the first experimental evidence of the so-called Haldane‘s gap (energy gap between the singlet ground state of an antiferromagnetic spin S = 1 chain and the first triplet excited state, theoretically conjectured by Haldane a few years before; (ii) the synthesis of a vanadium-chromium analogue of Prussian Blue exhibiting a Curie temperature TC above room temperature. In both cases, the most important point is the rational way followed: gathering all the necessary electronic and structural conditions (control of ligand field, structure dimensionality — 1D or 3D-, as well as mastering the exchange interaction between magnetic neighbours) to achieve the expected goal. The two compounds are magnetically opposite : a singlet ground state for the Haldane gap material, a room temperature magnet for the Prussian blue analogue. This was obtained following a stepwise approach [TC = 90K (1992), 240K (1993), 315K (1995)] playing on orthogonality and overlap of orbitals to transform the well-known old Prussian blue (itself a magnet at TC =5.6K) into a room temperature magnet. Those results, and the way they were obtained, are considered as milestones in the field of molecular magnetism.

This rational approach began with very simple systems, copper(II) binuclear systems, one-dimensional homometallic materials of various spins, including S = 1, hetero-bimetallic chains (a premiere, 1981), bimetallic molecule-based magnets (another premiere, 1988), molecule-based magnets up to room temperature and then more complex multifunctional systems, combining two different valuable physical properties: photo-magnetic molecules and magnets (transforming magnetism by light, also some premieres 2 first photo-magnetic molecule, 2003, first transition hom diamagnetic to ferri-magnetic phase, 2001) and chiral magnets with the recent premiere on recording magnetic chiral dichroism (the presence of Faraday effect –magnet- and Cotton effect - chirality- leads to a third property, at the second order, magnetochiral dichroism). Verdaguer is now engaged in obtaining multiferroics, materials combining ferroelectric and ferro-magnetic properties.

Verdaguer as key intermediate for the wider scientific community

His activity on synthesis and characterization was supported by his strong commitment to X-ray Absorption spectroscopy at the french synchrotron radiation laboratory, LURE, where he was beam line scientist, In this capacity, he invited many European scientists to work on his beam line. He was member of the scientific committee of LURE and Soleil, the new French synchrotron facility and contributed to define the characteristics of the new machine, now in successful operation. He also developed a rational approach, especially to XANES using symmetry theory, and XMCD using exchange interaction concepts, Several scientific premieres can be also noted in this field.

Verdaguer as successful textbook author

Before embarking in research, Verdaguer was first a secondary school teacher in a technical school - after training at Ecole Normale Supérieure de l‘Enseignement Technique-Cachan, 1961-1965 -, and then assistant professor at Ecole Normale Supérieure-Saint-Cloud, 1966-1987, where he trained excellent students, some of them occupying today top positions in French Science (Heads of "Grandes Ecoles" or important national or private research institutions). His book, with more than 6000 copies sold, on concepts and experiments in redox chemistry reflects 20 years of didactic experience. It is nowadays widely used in universities, and training centres for teachers‘ national competition (CAPES and agregation).

This passion of training young scientists and researchers has followed Verdaguer during all his career, with the organisation of several Summer Schools in coordination chemistry and X- ray absorption, and the edition of several special issues of Actualité Chimique, the monthly journal of` the French chemical society, Compte-Rendus Chimie, Monatshefte. One of his important contributions was the spreading of X-ray Absorption analyses on personal computers in French laboratories in the 80’s. Verdaguer was in the 90’s head of the important doctoral school (DEA) in Inorganic Chemistry in the Ile de France area, gathering students of the most important universities and Grandes Ecoles.

Verdaguer as European scientific leader

Another domain where Verdaguer demonstrated important leadership is the construction of a "European Research Area" in molecular magnetism. Through his participation in different research programmes of the European Community (4th, 5th, 6th programmes of research and development - within the Network of Excellence "Magmanet") and the European Science Foundation (as coordinator of the "Molecular Magnets" project -1998-2002, 42 laboratories, 14 countries), he contributed to put European molecular magnetism at the cutting edge of research and establish it on a firm scientific basis with the organisation of different European congresses and training summer schools for young researchers, whose activity is presently blossoming.

Verdaguer as charismatic lecturer

Verdaguer "retired" at the age of 60 to become Emeritus Professor (2002), in order to spend more time on research in multifunctional materials with his young co-workers and to promote science among the wider community. He is particularly active in giving lectures on molecular magnetism to lay audiences. He gave in 2005 a lecture at one of the Friday Evening Discourses at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. This lecture (A magnetic world, nom compass to molecules) beautifully illustrated by most attractive original experiments was then given world-wide in universities and Science Festivals, in Japan, China, Philippines, India, Europe (Poland, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France), Canada, Chile, Brazil. Verdaguer is now engaged very actively in the preparation of the International year of Chemistry 20ll, notably to celebrate Marie Sklodowska Curie 100th anniversary of her Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded in 1911.

His lecturing activity was recognized by many invitations abroad as invited professor - recently in 2010-2011 in Nagoya University -, by several awards of the French Academy of Sciences and national chemical societies, and by his participation to the International Advisory Board of the International Conferences in Molecular Magnetism (ICMM). He has given the "Olivier Kahn Lecture" during the ICMM 2010 in Beijing, a rare and outstanding recognition of his personal impact in the field.

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