Leo P. Kadanoff

Leo P. Kadanoff Winner of Wolf Prize in Physics - 1980
Leo P. Kadanoff

THE 1980 WOLF FOUNDATION PRIZE IN PHYSICS


The Prize Committee in Physics for 1980 decided that the prize this year will be divided equally among:

Leo P. Kadanoff
University of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Michael E. Fisher
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York, USA

Kenneth G. Wilson
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York, USA

for path breaking developments culminating in the general theory of the critical behavior at transitions between the different thermodynamic phases of matter.

The set of theoretical ideas, which these three men have had the central roles in developing are of the most fundamental importance to physics and chemistry. They constitute the long hoped-for solution, in an unexpected and exciting form, to questions about critical points and critical fluctuations first formulated in the early 1930´s and later brought into sharper focus by an increasing body of experimental data and numerical analyses, much of it done by or under the stimulus of Fisher. To chemistry these ideas contribute new insights to the nature of thermodynamic phases as well as the solution of one of its oldest problems; to physics a new and elegant methodology which Kadanoff and especially Wilson have shown to be relevant to many important and apparently unrelated problems of quantum physics, especially the gauge theory of strong interactions between elementary particles and the quantum theory of magnetic impurity systems. The power and generality of this new conceptual structure is only beginning to be properly tested by these extensions to new fields.

Professor Michael E. Fisher has been an extraordinarily productive scientist, and one still at the height of his powers and creativity. Fisher´s major contributions have been in equilibrium statistical mechanics, and have spanned the full range´ of that subject. He was mainly responsible for bringing together, and teaching a common language to, chemists and physicists working on diverse problems of phase transitions.

Professor Leo P. Kadanoff has made excellent theoretical research, which he is still carrying on, in several fields of physics, but more particularly on phase transitions and critical-point phenomena. The latter work was seminal to an understanding of these matters, inspiring a great deal of further study by many theorists.

Professor Kenneth G. Wilson Wilson´s work is characterized by astonishing range and depth. His research and discoveries have revealed hitherto unperceived connections between several areas of great interest to contemporary physics. His major works have ranged over areas that had appeared to be totally disconnected. in each of which he has made major advances, most particularly in the field of phase transitions where his work has revolutionized the subject.