APS News

Three Physicists Share 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics

Two APS fellows–Roy Glauber of Harvard University and John L. Hall of NIST/University of Colorado–shared the 2005 Nobel Prize for physics with Theodor Hänsch of the Max Planck Institut für Quantenoptik. The prize was announced on October 4. All three recipients’ prize-winning work is linked to landmark papers published by the Physical Review and Physical Review Letters.

Glauber received half of the roughly $1.3 million prize; he was honored “for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence.” Hall and Hänsch each collected a quarter of the prize, and were honored “for their contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique.”

Both APS President Marvin Cohen and APS Editor-in-Chief Martin Blume extended their congratulations to the recipients on behalf of the Society. “The APS has long been aware of the stature of these three great physicists,” said Cohen, adding that all had been honored with APS prizes. Glauber won the 1996 Dannie Heinemann Prize; Hänsch won the 1996 Arthur Schawlow Prize and the 1986 Herbert P. Broida Prize; and Hall won the Schawlow Prize in 1993 and the Davisson-Germer Prize in 1988.

Glauber laid the foundations of quantum optics, showing how the powerful tools of quantum mechanics could be applied to optics. Previously, the field had relied on classical physics, which treated light as though it were a wave. In the 1960s, Glauber described optical coherence in the quantum-mechanical terms necessary to understand the detection of coherent light sources such as lasers, as well as the coherence properties of light from stars.

Hall and Hänsch's work led to methods for measuring frequencies to one part in a hundred trillion–a precision of fifteen decimal places.


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