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Wieman and Cornell Receive Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics

For Immediate Release: January 13, 2000

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Contact: Peter Caughey
303-492-4007

Carl Wieman of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Eric Cornell of the National Institute of Standards and Technology have been awarded the 2000 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics from the Franklin Institute.

The prestigious award also was presented to Wolfgang Ketterle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The three physicists were among 11 laureates announced in Philadelphia today. Since 1824, the Franklin Institute has bestowed awards to individuals who have made a significant contribution to science and technology. Previous laureates include Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, Marie Curie, Edwin Hubbell and Steven Hawking.

"We are proud that our awards program is often a barometer of future Nobel winners," said Dennis Wint, president and chief executive officer of the Franklin Institute. "The Benjamin Franklin Medals are now one of the world's most prestigious scientific honors."

A total of 91 Franklin laureates hold 93 Nobel prizes, representing 20 percent of the 461 Nobel winners in physics, chemistry or physiology and medicine.

Cornell, Wieman and Ketterle were cited for experimentally confirming Satyendra Bose's and Albert Einstein's 1924 prediction that a dilute gas condensate can display properties usually found only on an atomic or molecular scale.

In 1995, Wieman and Cornell created the world's first Bose-Einstein condensate by cooling atoms to the lowest temperature ever recorded. The discovery opened up a new field of research that is now actively pursued around the world.

Wieman is a distinguished professor of physics and has taught at CU-Boulder since 1984. Cornell is a senior scientist at NIST and an adjoint professor of physics at CU-Boulder. Both teach undergraduate and graduate students and both are fellows of JILA, a joint institute of CU-Boulder and NIST.

Wieman has carried out research in laser spectroscopy of atoms, with an emphasis on laser cooling and trapping and the measurement of parity violation. The latter work has made "table-top" measurements of elementary particle physics that are competitive with the largest particle accelerators. He currently is studying the properties of Bose-Einstein condensates and developing simpler and better techniques for cooling and trapping atoms.

Cornell's research interests center around various aspects of laser cooling, including Bose-Einstein condensation and an experiment on atoms guided by optical forces inside hollow glass fibers. He also is building an atom-wave interferometer for ultra-sensitive inertial sensing.

The medals will be presented April 27 at a formal awards ceremony hosted by CBS news anchor Charles Osgood in Philadelphia. Medals will be bestowed in five categories: physics, earth sciences, engineering, chemistry, and computer and cognitive science.

The Franklin Institute is one of the nation's premier centers of science education and development.

CU-Boulder was founded in 1876 and has an enrollment of about 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The department of physics is part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce'sTechnology Administration, NIST strengthens the U.S. economy and improves the quality of life by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.

Additional Contact: Fred McGehan, 303-497-3246 (NIST)