Schechtman was born in Tel Aviv, Israel's most populous city, in 1941. After receiving his doctorate from the Technion in 1972, Professor Schechtman became a National Research Council fellow at the aerospace Research Laboratories at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio where he studied for three years the microstructure and physical metallurgy of titanium aluminides. In 1975 he joined the department of materials engineering at Technion. In 1981-l983 he was on sabbatical at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where he studied rapidly solidified aluminum transition metal alloys. During this study he discovered the Icosahedral Phase which opened the new field of quasiperiodic crystals.
On October 4, 2011, it was announced that Schechtman was being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery in 1982 for his discovery that fundamentally changed the way chemists look at solid matter. Contrary to the previous belief that atoms were packed inside crystals in symmetrical patterns, Shechtman showed that the atoms in a crystal could be packed in a pattern that could not be repeated, the academy said.
Prior to his discovery, crystals were thought to only have repeating patterns. The controversy of his finding was so great that Shechtman was asked, at one point, to leave his research group. His research, ultimately, prevailed, using Arabic mosaic patterns, which rely on mathematical non-repeating patterns, as a model.
Daniel Schechtman becomes the fourth Israeli scientist to the Nobel Prize in chemistry- Ada Yonath (2009), Avram Hershko (2004) and Aaron Ciechanover (2004) - and the 10th Israeli overall to win a Nobel Prize. The previous nine Israeli winners are as follows: Yonath; Hershko; Ciechanover; Robert "Israel" Aumann (2005, Economics); Daniel Kahneman (2002, Economics); Yitzhak Rabin (1994, Peace); Shimon Peres (1994, Peace); Menachem Begin (1978, Peace); and, Shai Agnon (1966, Literature).