Arieh Warshel was born in the Sde Nahum kibbutz in what was then British Palestine (now Israel). He studied first at Technion in Haifa, and received his Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot in 1969. After spending time at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States, he worked at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. He has worked at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles since 1976.
The world around us is made up of atoms that are joined together to form molecules. During chemical reactions atoms change places and new molecules are formed. To accurately predict the course of the reactions at the sites where the reaction occurs advanced calculations based on quantum mechanics are required. For other parts of the molecules, it is possible to use the less complicated calculations of classical mechanics. In the 1970s, Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt, and Arieh Warshel successfully developed methods that combined quantum and classical mechanics to calculate the courses of chemical reactions using computers.