Saturday 1 December 2018

Nobel Laureate Physicists Born in December

Karl Manne Georg Siegbahn
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1924
Born: 3 December 1886, Örebro, Sweden
Died: 26 September 1978, Stockholm, Sweden
Affiliation at the time of the award: Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
Prize motivation: "for his discoveries and research in the field of X-ray spectroscopy."
Manne Siegbahn received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1925.
Prize share: 1/1

A few years after the discovery of X-rays, Charles Barkla showed that compounds exposed to X-rays emitted secondary X-rays with wavelengths that were characteristic of different elements. After studying a number of elements, Henry Moseley was able to add to and revise the periodic table. Manne Siegbahn developed apparatus and methods for improving accuracy when mapping x-ray spectra. This advance proved important in the development of atomic and quantum physics.

Werner Karl Heisenberg
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1932
Born: 5 December 1901, Würzburg, Germany
Died: 1 February 1976, Munich, West Germany (now Germany)
Affiliation at the time of the award: Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany
Prize motivation: "for the creation of quantum mechanics, the application of which has, inter alia, led to the discovery of the allotropic forms of hydrogen."
Werner Heisenberg received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1933.
Prize share: 1/1

In Niels Bohr's theory of the atom, electrons absorb and emit radiation of fixed wavelengths when jumping between fixed orbits around a nucleus. The theory provided a good description of the spectrum created by the hydrogen atom, but needed to be developed to suit more complicated atoms and molecules. In 1925, Werner Heisenberg formulated a type of quantum mechanics based on matrices. In 1927 he proposed the "uncertainty relation", setting limits for how precisely the position and velocity of a particle can be simultaneously determined.

Cecil Frank Powell
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1950
Born: 5 December 1903, Tonbridge, United Kingdom
Died: 9 August 1969, Italy
Affiliation at the time of the award: Bristol University, Bristol, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for his development of the photographic method of studying nuclear processes and his discoveries regarding mesons made with this method."
Prize share: 1/1

Charged particles moving through photographic emulsions leave tracks that can be examined in the images developed afterward. Cecil Powell made improvements to this technique in order to study radiation and nuclear reactions. In 1947 he discovered that incident cosmic ray particles could react with atomic nuclei in the emulsion, creating other, short-lived particles. These particles turned out to be pi-mesons, the particles proposed by Hideki Yukawa as mediating the strong force binding protons and neutrons in nuclei.

Sheldon Lee Glashow
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1979
Born: 5 December 1932, New York, NY, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Harvard University, Lyman Laboratory, Cambridge, MA, USA
Prize motivation: "for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including, inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current."
Prize share: 1/3

According to modern physics, four fundamental forces exist in nature. Electromagnetic interaction is one of these. The weak interaction - responsible, for example, for the beta decay of nuclei - is another. Thanks to contributions made by Sheldon Glashow, Abdus Salam, and Steven Weinberg in 1968, these two interactions were unified to one single, called electroweak. The theory predicted, for example, that weak interaction manifests itself in "neutral weak currents" when certain elementary particles interact. This was later confirmed.

Leo James Rainwater
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1975
Born: 9 December 1917, Council, ID, USA
Died: 31 March 1986, Yonkers, NY, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Prize motivation: "for the discovery of the connection between collective motion and particle motion in atomic nuclei and the development of the theory of the structure of the atomic nucleus based on this connection."
Prize share: 1/3

According to modern physics, an atomic nucleus consists of nucleons - protons and neutrons. In earlier models the nucleus was depicted as being spherical, but this proved to be inaccurate. In 1950 James Rainwater postulated that the atomic nucleus can be distorted. The nucleons in the outer portions of the atomic nucleus move about in paths and interact with nucleons inside, causing the nucleus to be distorted. Independently of Rainwater, Aage Bohr arrived at the same theory and corroborated it through experiments in collaboration with Ben Mottelson in 1952 and 1953.

Henry W. Kendall
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1990
Born: 9 December 1926, Boston, MA, USA
Died: 15 February 1999, Wakulla Springs State Park, FL, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA
Prize motivation: "for their pioneering investigations concerning deep inelastic scattering of electrons on protons and bound neutrons, which have been of essential importance for the development of the quark model in particle physics."
Prize share: 1/3

Normal matter consists of atoms possessing nuclei of protons and neutrons, surrounded by electrons. In a series of experiments conducted around 1970, Henry Kendall, Jerome Friedman, and Richard Taylor aimed high-energy electrons at protons and neutrons using a large accelerator. They studied how the electrons scattered during the collisions and how protons were sometimes converted into other particles. Their results supported the theory that protons and neutrons are composed of sub-particles, quarks.

Max Born
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1954
Born: 11 December 1882, Breslau (now Wroclaw), Germany (now Poland) (now Poland)
Died: 5 January 1970, Göttingen, West Germany (now Germany) (now Alsace (then Germany, now France))
Affiliation at the time of the award: Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for his fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially for his statistical interpretation of the wavefunction."
Prize share: 1/2

In Niels Bohr's theory of the atom, electrons absorb and emit radiation of fixed wavelengths when jumping between orbits around a nucleus. The theory provided a good description of the spectrum created by the hydrogen atom, but needed to be developed to suit more complicated atoms and molecules. Following Werner Heisenberg's initial work around 1925, Max Born contributed to the further development of quantum mechanics. He also proved that Erwin Schrödinger's wave equation could be interpreted as giving statistical (rather than exact) predictions of variables.

Philip Warren Anderson
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1977
Born: 13 December 1923, Indianapolis, IN, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ, USA
Prize motivation: "for their fundamental theoretical investigations of the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems."
Prize share: 1/3

Solid materials often have a regular crystalline structure and composition, but sometimes they constitute disordered systems. These could be alloys with a regular structure but a more random composition. Other solid materials, such as glass, lack a regular structure. In 1958 Philip Anderson showed the conditions under which an electron can move about freely within a disordered system and when it is more or less bound to a specific place. This and other works have contributed to a deeper understanding of electrical phenomena in disordered systems.

Nicolay Gennadiyevich Basov
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1964
Born: 14 December 1922, Usman, USSR (now Russia)
Died: 1 July 2001, Moscow, Russia
Affiliation at the time of the award: P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute, Moscow, USSR
Prize motivation: "for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle."
Prize share: 1/4

Stimulated emission means that a light packet, a photon, coming in contact with an atom can cause an electron to descend to a lower energy level so that an additional photon with the same amount of energy is emitted. If electrons are elevated to higher energy levels with the help of heat or light, an avalanche-like effect occurs when they fall to lower levels. In the 1950s Nicolay Basov, Aleksandr Prokhorov and Charles Townes contributed to putting this phenomenon into practical use in masers and lasers, which produce concentrated and coherent beams of microwaves and light, respectively.

Antoine Henri Becquerel
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1903
Born: 15 December 1852, Paris, France
Died: 25 August 1908, France
Affiliation at the time of the award: École Polytechnique, Paris, France
Prize motivation: "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by his discovery of spontaneous radioactivity."
Prize share: 1/2

When Henri Becquerel investigated the newly discovered X-rays in 1896, it led to studies of how uranium salts are affected by light. By accident, he discovered that uranium salts spontaneously emit a penetrating radiation that can be registered on a photographic plate. Further studies made it clear that this radiation was something new and not X-ray radiation: he had discovered a new phenomenon, radioactivity.

Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962
Born: 15 December 1916, Pongaroa, New Zealand
Died: 5 October 2004, London, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: London University, London, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material."
Prize share: 1/3

During the 1930s, a number of laboratories began to use a method called x-ray crystallography to map large, biologically important molecules. Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin worked to determine the structure of the DNA molecule in the early 1950s at King's College in London. While they did not succeed in mapping the structure, their results - not least of all Franklin's x-ray diffraction images - were important in Francis Crick's and James Watson's eventual unlocking of the mystery - a long spiral with twin threads.

Joseph John Thomson
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1906
Born: 18 December 1856, Cheetham Hill, near Manchester, United Kingdom
Died: 30 August 1940, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "in recognition of the great merits of his theoretical and experimental investigations on the conduction of electricity by gases."
Prize share: 1/1

The idea that electricity is transmitted by a tiny particle related to the atom was first forwarded in the 1830s. In the 1890s, J.J. Thomson managed to estimate its magnitude by performing experiments with charged particles in gases. In 1897 he showed that cathode rays (radiation emitted when a voltage is applied between two metal plates inside a glass tube filled with low-pressure gas) consist of particles - electrons - that conduct electricity. Thomson also concluded that electrons are part of atoms.

Eric A. Cornell
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2001
Born: 19 December 1961, Palo Alto, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Colorado, JILA, Boulder, CO, USA
Prize motivation: "for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates."
Prize share: 1/3

One of the fundamental numbers in the world of quantum mechanics is the spin quantum number. Particles and atoms that have whole-number spin are described by other rules and equations than those that have half-number spin. Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein predicted in 1924 that at very low temperatures atoms with whole-number spin would be able to concentrate themselves in the lowest energy state and form a Bose-Einstein condensate. In 1995 Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman succeeded in proving the phenomenon in a rarefied gas of rubidium atoms at an extremely low temperature.

Ernst Ruska
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1986
Born: 25 December 1906, Heidelberg, Germany
Died: 27 May 1988, West Berlin, Germany
Affiliation at the time of the award: Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany
Prize motivation: "for his fundamental work in electron optics, and for the design of the first electron microscope."
Prize share: 1/2

Very small objects can be studied in a microscope, but when objects become as small as the wavelength of light, an image no longer is produced. The discovery that beams of electrons behave as waves with wavelengths shorter than visible light opened up new opportunities. Ernst Ruska discovered that a magnetic coil could be used as a lens for electron beams and developed the first electron microscope in 1933. It captures images of extremely small objects by means of electron beams that are directed towards an object and captured on a screen.

Reference: (cited on 1/12/2018)

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