Daniel Kleppner Awarded Prestigious Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute

By Thomas M. Miller

FHP Past Chair, Daniel Kleppner
FHP Past Chair, Daniel Kleppner

S. Cramton, N. Ramsey, D. Kleppner. The H-maser at Harvard University.
L-R: S. Cramton, N. Ramsey, D. Kleppner. The H-maser at Harvard University. Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Ramsey Collection.

A recent Chair of FHP, Daniel Kleppner, has been awarded the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute. Kleppner is Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at MIT and co-director of the NSF MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms. The citation for the medal reads, “The 2014 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics is awarded to Daniel Kleppner for many pioneering contributions to discoveries of novel quantum phenomena involving the interaction of atoms with electromagnetic fields and the behavior of atoms at ultra-low temperatures.”

Earlier in 2013, Kleppner had been honored at an international symposium in Brazil on the occasion of being named Emeritus Professor of the Institute of Physics of São Carlos of the University of São Paulo. Upon the many accolades, Kleppner reported that “I felt that I had been canonized.” The term is appropriate because many of the present miracles in atomic, molecular, and optical physics are based on work carried out by Kleppner. He laid the groundwork for research with trapped cold atoms, leading to the experimental attainment of Bose-Einstein condensation in 1995.

Kleppner was a PhD student of Norman Ramsey at Harvard in the 1950s, and Kleppner remained at Harvard into the 1960s before moving to MIT. His research at Harvard is noted for the invention with Ramsey of the hydrogen maser, which was the basis for early generations of atomic clocks.

Kleppner is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has served both NAS and APS for decades on various committees. He was Chair of DAMOP in 1983/84 and Chair of FHP in 2010/11. During the controversy over the proper wording of an APS statement on climate change, Kleppner was chosen to come up with a correct version. Among Kleppner’s honors are the Frederic Ives Medal (2007), the National Medal of Science (2006), the Wolf Prize in Physics (2005), the Lilienfeld and Davisson-Germer Prizes of the APS (1990 and 1985).

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