• Apr 19, 1928
    (b.) - ?


An American physicist, he is an IBM Fellow Emeritus at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York. For many years he was an adjunct professor of Physics at Columbia University. He has also been an Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University. In 1952, he was a scientist at the IBM Watson Laboratory at Columbia University. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, he received his B.S. Degree from the Case Institute of Technology in 1947, and obtained his Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1949, where he worked in the lab of Enrico Fermi. Fermi said that he was the only true genius he had ever met. He joined IBM in 1952 at the Watson Laboratory in New York City and began working with magnetic resonance in 1953. At the time, he was studying liquid and solid helium 3 and magnetic resonance was the tool used to study their diffusion. With the "spin echo" technique of nuclear magnetic resonance, a magnetic field with a strong gradient (variation of field over the sample) would allow him and his team to measure the diffusion. The observed shape of the spin echo fit the shape of the helium sample and from that they were able to determine the gradient and hence the diffusion over a broad range of temperatures and pressures. Their data showed that diffusion in solid helium 3 continued unchanged at the lowest temperatures reached. “Since we were doing this work at IBM,” he said, “we tried to find a way for this to be useful.” He and several others at the lab showed that the spin-echo techniques could serve as a computer memory, but it was not competitive for that purpose. Fortunately, though, his inventions and patents in magnetic resonance turned out to be very useful for magnetic resonance imaging in medicine. While at IBM, he was the "catalyst" for the discovery and publication of the Cooley–Tukey FFT algorithm, named after J.W. Cooley and John Tukey. It is the most common fast Fourier transform (FFT) algorithm. He worked in many different areas at IBM, including computer technology, communication systems, low-temperature physics, non-conservation of parity and the detection of gravitational radiation. In addition to the work described above, he also played a crucial role in developing laser printers and touchscreen monitors for IBM in the 1970s. He also did research on inkjet printing. He retired from IBM in 1993. During his career with IBM, he divided his time between those corporate responsibilities and his work as an expert in intelligence and on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and defenses for the United States government. He has conducted studies on anti-submarine warfare, sensor systems, military and civil aircraft, and satellite and strategic systems for the purpose of assessing capabilities and improving the systems. For example, he contributed to the first U.S. photographic reconnaissance satellite program that returned three million feet of film from almost 100 successful flights from 1960 to 1972 and also to the current electro-optical imaging satellites. He was the author of the actual design used in the first hydrogen bomb (code-named Mike) in 1952. He was assigned the job by Edward Teller, with the instructions that he was to make it as conservative a design as possible in order to prove the concept was feasible (as such, the Mike device was not intended to be a deployable weapon design, with tons of cryogenic equipment required for its use). He is a recipient of numerous awards: the 1983 Wright Prize for interdisciplinary scientific achievement; the 1988 AAAS Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award; the 1991 Erice "Science for Peace" Prize, from the U.S. Government; and the 1996 R.V. Jones Foreign Intelligence Award. Also in 1996, he was awarded the Enrico Fermi Award by President Clinton and the Department of Energy for his many contributions to national security and arms control and for his achievements in nuclear and particle physics. He also received the Federation of American Scientists Public Service Award 1971 and 1997, University of Chicago Enrico Fermi Institute and Departments of Physics and Astronomy Public Service Medal (2002); the Case Alumni Association Gold Medal (2002); Academie des Sciences (France) La Grande Medaille de l'Academie des Sciences-2002; and Fellow of the IEEE (November 2003) "for contributions to the application of engineering to national defense." In 2003 he received from the President the National Medal of Science. Also in 2002, he received the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest honor for the fields of science and engineering. He was honored for his research and discoveries in physics and for his contributions to national security. Cited among his contributions was his work on nuclear magnetic resonance techniques, which are used in today’s magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. He is co-author of many books, among them Nuclear Weapons and World Politics (1977); Nuclear Power Issues and Choices (1977); Energy: The Next Twenty Years (1979); Science Advice to the President (1980); Managing the Plutonium Surplus: Applications and Technical Options (1994); Feux Follets et Champignons Nucleaires (1997) (in French with Georges Charpak); Megawatts and Megatons: A Turning Point in the Nuclear Age? (2001), with Georges Charpak; and "De Tchernobyl en tchernobyls", with Georges Charpak and Venance Journe (2005). He holds 44 U.S. patents; his most recent of which include techniques for controlling the distortion of fingerprint images and detecting explosives in land mines and baggage. He is a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. He also served on the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States in 1998. He is also a member of the JASON Defense Advisory Group. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, the Council on Foreign Relations, and many other organizations. From 1994 - 2001, he also chaired the Arms Control and Nonproliferation Advisory Board at the Department of State. Since 2009 he has been a consultant to the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Offices of the President. In 2010 he was a consultant to Secretary of Energy Steve Chu on the Deep Water Horizon (BP) oil spill, and in 2011 he supported Secretary Chu again on the U.S. response to the damaged reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi.
  • Date of Birth:

    Apr 19, 1928
  • Gender:

  • Noted For:

    Co-developer of laser printers and touchscreen monitors for IBM in the 1970s
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