Press release

Bertrand Halperin Wins 2019 APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research

August 10, 2018

Bertrand I. Halperin, Hollis Professor of Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy, Emeritus at Harvard, will be awarded the 2019 American Physical Society’s Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research. The medal recognizes contributions of the highest level that advance our knowledge and understanding of the physical universe in all its facets, and is presented along with a $50,000 prize. Halperin will receive the medal at a ceremony to be held January 31, 2019 in Washington D.C.

The 2019 medal citation honoring Halperin reads: “For his seminal contributions to theoretical condensed matter physics, especially his pioneering work on the role of topology in both classical and quantum systems.”

“Bertrand Halperin is a giant in the field of theoretical condensed matter physics,” said David Gross, chair of the 2019 APS Medal selection committee. “His many contributions to the understanding of the dynamics of phase transitions, of low dimensional quantum phenomena, of the quantum Hall effect, and his pioneering work on the role of topology in classical and quantum systems have shaped condensed matter theory over the last 40 years, bringing it to bear on the understanding of many experiments.The APS is proud to recognize these seminal achievements with the 2019 APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research.”

Halperin received his A.B. degree from Harvard in 1961, and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1965. Following a postdoctoral year in Paris, he spent ten years at Bell Laboratories, and then joined the Harvard physics faculty in 1976. While Halperin’s early work centered on the singular behaviors of systems near a classical critical point and properties of systems with frozen disorder, his recent work has focused more on quantum properties of electrons in confined geometries, including especially two-dimensional electron systems in a strong magnetic field.

Topological aspects of his work include the roles of dislocations and disclinations in two-dimensional melting, of vortices in the superfluid transition, and of edge states, fractional statistics, and emergent gauge fields in quantum Hall systems. Halperin is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Physical Society. His awards include the Buckley Prize and the Onsager Prize from the APS, the Dannie Heineman Prize of the Göttingen Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Lars Onsager Lecture and Medal of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, an honorary doctorate from the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Lise Meitner Lecture and Medal, and the Wolf Prize in Physics.

“Bert is among our most distinguished APS Members," said APS Chief Executive Officer Kate Kirby. "He has worked at the forefront of condensed matter theory for decades, and has made fundamental contributions in a variety of distinct research areas. It's hard to imagine someone more deserving of the APS flagship honor, the 2019 APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research.”

The APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research is the Society’s largest prize, recognizing the achievements of researchers from across all fields of physics. The medal is funded by a generous endowment from entrepreneur Jay Jones.


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