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Kenneth G. Wilson

Kenneth G. WilsonAKA Kenneth Geddes Wilson

Born: 8-Jun-1936
Birthplace: Waltham, MA
Died: 15-Jun-2013
Location of death: Saco, ME
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Quaker
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Second-order phase transitions

American physicist Kenneth G. Wilson applied renormalization group analysis to assorted problems of theoretical physics, especially concerning critical points and phase transitions. In papers published beginning in 1971, he addressed and helped resolve some of the biggest previously unsolved problems in theoretical physics. He was a key proponent for the idea — controversial at the time — that the US federal government should provide financial support for the purchase and installation of supercomputers on major college campuses, and he was among the first scientists to use computer simulations and modeling. For his work on critical phase transition phenomena, he won the 1982 Nobel Prize for Physics.

His father, Edgar Bright Wilson Jr., was a chemist at Harvard and an early leader in the developing theoretical and experimental study of the structure of molecules. The younger Wilson won a varsity letter at Harvard for his athletics with the track team, and said that he came to Cornell because he had heard that the university had a good folk dancing group.

Father: Edgar Bright Wilson, Jr. (chemist, b. 18-Dec-1908, d. 12-Jun-1992)
Mother: Emily Buckingham Wilson (physicist, m. 1935, d. 1954)
Brother: David
Sister: Nina
Mother: Therese Bremer (stepmother, chemist, m. 1955)
Sister: Anne (stepsister)
Brother: Paul (stepbrother)
Brother: Steven (stepbrother)
Wife: Alison Brown (computer scientist, dated 1975-82, m. 1982)

    High School: Magdalen College School, Oxford, England (attended for one year)
    High School: George School, Newtown, PA (1952)
    University: BS Mathematics, Harvard University (1956)
    University: PhD, California Institute of Technology (1961)
    Scholar: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (summers, 1953-55)
    Fellow: Harvard University (1959-63)
    Teacher: Physics, Cornell University (1963-71)
    Scholar: Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University (1969-70)
    Professor: Physics, Cornell University (1970-74)
    Professor: James A. Weeks Professor of Physics, Cornell University (1974-88)
    Administrator: Cornell Theory Center, Cornell University (1985-88)
    Professor: Hazel C. Youngberg Distinguished Professor of Physics, Ohio State University (1988-)

    Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics 1973
    IUPAP Ludwig Boltzmann Medal 1975
    Wolf Prize in Physics 1980
    Benjamin Franklin Medal 1982 (by the Franklin Institute)
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1982
    SES A. C. Eringen Medal 1984
    APS Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics 1993
    IBM Visiting Scholar, Zürich Laboratory, 1979-80
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1975
    American Philosophical Society 1984
    CERN Fellowship, 1962-63
    Harvard Society of Fellows 1959-63
    National Academy of Sciences 1975
    National Science Foundation

Author of books:
Redesigning Education (1994, educational theory; with Bennett Daviss)


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