Former Fermilab physicist Bill Foster has been elected Representative for the Illinois 14th Congressional District. Foster is now the third physicist, and third APS Fellow, in Congress, joining Vernon Ehlers (R-MI 3rd) and Rush Holt (D-NJ 12th).
Foster defeated Republican dairy magnate Jim Oberweis in the special election held March 8 to replace retired Representative and former Republican House Speaker, Dennis Hastert. Foster will now serve the rest of Hastert’s term, and will then face Oberweis again in the regular election in November.
The Illinois 14th congressional district includes the western suburbs of Chicago, including the area where Fermilab is located. Foster, a Democrat, captured 52 percent of the vote in the usually Republican-leaning district.
Dozens of scientists, including 28 Nobel laureates, endorsed Foster. “The scientific community was very excited by the prospect of having another scientist in Congress, because there’s been a lack of understanding of and respect for science in the public policy realm,” said Foster’s press secretary Andrew Dupuy.
Voters also saw value in Foster’s background as a physicist, according to Dupuy. “People want change, and sending a scientist to Congress certainly represents a change.”
“Most of the challenges facing this country are economic or technological, and as a businessman and a scientist, Congressman Foster has the background and experience to address those issues. Energy policy would be an obvious example–Foster’s understanding of science is vital to finding solutions for energy independence,” said Dupuy.
Foster received a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1975 and a PhD in physics from Harvard University in 1984. During his 22 years at Fermilab, Foster played a leading role in the design and building of several particle physics experiments. As a member of the CDF collaboration he designed much of the original electronics and participated in the discovery of the top quark. He was also was a co-inventor of Fermilab’s Antiproton Recycler Ring.
In addition to being a physicist, Foster is a successful businessman. When he was 19, Foster and his brother started a theater lighting company, Electronic Theatre Controls, which now provides over 70% of the theater lighting in the US.