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The Franklin Institute Honors ‘Best Of The Best’ At 2012 Awards

(credit: KYW's Suzanne Monaghan)

(credit: KYW’s Suzanne Monaghan)

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Nine individuals that are pioneers in their fields will be honored on Thursday night for their discoveries and achievements in science, technology and business during the annual Franklin Institute Awards Ceremony. The recipients are as follows:

Louis E. Brus, Ph.D.
Columbia University
New York, New York
Citation: For his seminal discoveries and scientific leadership, which have made semiconductor nanocrystals, their synthesis, characterization, and theory a cornerstone of modern chemistry.

For most people, the word “chemistry” conjures up images of test tubes and Bunsen burners, odoriferous liquids bubbling in flasks over open flames, or perhaps huge industrial plants comprising a maze of pipes and tanks and smokestacks. But as we progress into the 21st century, the frontiers of physical chemistry are increasingly found not in Pyrex glassware on a lab bench, but at an almost unimaginably smaller scale: the nanoscale, where atoms and molecules operate at the basic level. For more than three decades, Louis E. Brus has been pioneering the exploration of this new realm, and taking a lead role in the birth of a new discipline: nanochemistry.

Brus is best known for discovering colloidal quantum dots, which are semiconductor nanocrystals with unusual electronic and physical properties that make them useful for applications ranging from microelectronics and optical devices to quantum computing and even biology. Ultimately, they may make possible the creation of single-electron transistors, leading to ever smaller and more powerful electronic devices. He was the first to study and characterize quantum dots in detail and to recognize their vast potential. But this represents only one of the many successes in an unconventional scientific career that has blended chemistry and physics in ways that have opened up wholly new areas of research and discovery.

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Brus moved throughout the Midwest with his family as a child, and found his scientific calling while in high school in Kansas, taking an intense interest in his chemistry and physics courses. Working at a hardware store after school, he also discovered an affinity for working with tools and machines, something which would serve him well in his later experimental work as a scientist. He enrolled at Rice University in 1961, the first year the university offered a major in chemical physics, which he eagerly embraced. Yet he wasn’t actually thinking about a scientific career. He was attending Rice on a Naval Reserve ROTC scholarship, spending his summers as a midshipman training at sea, and assumed that after he graduated and completed his naval service, he would go into business like his father, an insurance salesman.

Despite this tidy plan, Brus’ passion for science only intensified, and upon graduation he was permitted to continue on to graduate school instead of going immediately into active service. He proceeded to earn his doctorate at Columbia University in just four years, then returned to the Navy in a position as a scientific officer at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C. The work he did at NRL helped set the course of his later career, as he worked with lasers and their application to solid state physics.

In 1973, Brus was discharged from the Navy and went to work for the world-famous Bell Labs, where among many other things, the transistor and laser had been invented. Bell Labs was especially noted for its support for pure research, a place where a scientist was free to explore anything. “It was the best place to do physical science research,” Brus wrote in an autobiography. “I never wrote a research proposal or a budget; new ideas were discussed informally with management, and then we just went ahead.”

It was at Bell that Brus did the work that led to his quantum dot discoveries. Experimenting in photochemistry and short-pulse Raman laser spectroscopy, Brus found that certain semiconductor nanocrystals had a band gap (the difference between different electron energy levels, and upon which semiconductor function depends) larger than that of bulk crystals, and that the band gap was a function of the crystal size. In effect, a nanocrystal can display the properties both of bulk crystal and a single molecule. Brus was able to synthesize other nanocrystal structures with similar properties, basically developing the technique for building bulk semiconductors from the “ground up” at the nanolevel.

When Bell Labs became Lucent in the 1990s and the company began changing direction, Brus decided to move on into a new world: academia. Having spent his entire career thus far in private industry, he found it a somewhat difficult transition at first, since he’d never done any of the usual academic tasks such as teaching or scrambling for research grants. But he met the challenges of his new role with the same energy and creativity he brought to his scientific work, and is currently the S.L. Mitchell Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University. Along with teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses, Brus continues his groundbreaking research in nanoscience, using new techniques of microscopy and Raman spectroscopy to study and characterize the structure of nanocrystals and carbon nanotubes.

Widely recognized as an innovator and master experimental scientist, Louis Brus has published more than 230 scientific articles and received prizes for his work from the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, the Kavli Foundation, and many others. Such varied recognition of his contributions to chemistry, physics, and nanoscience provides a powerful testament to the wide-ranging importance and interdisciplinary nature of his work—and the promise of even greater accomplishments yet to come.


John T. Chambers
Cisco Systems, Inc.
San Jose, California
Citation: For shaping Cisco Systems, Inc. into one of the world’s most widely respected and successful technology companies, providing business and consumer technologies that allow millions of people to connect to each other through computer networking and the Internet, and for his leadership by example in corporate responsibility and personal philanthropy.

It’s a safe bet that anyone who uses the internet owes a debt of thanks to John T. Chambers, because more than likely, the routing or switching devices they’re using to connect to the net were designed and built by Cisco Systems, Inc. As Cisco’s chairman and CEO, Chambers presides over the world’s premier data networking company—the culmination of a long and illustrious journey from his first job as a humble salesman for IBM.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Chambers was raised in Charleston, West Virginia. Although he struggled early on with dyslexia, his parents, his father a doctor and his mother a psychologist, made sure that he received the extra help he needed, and Chambers overcame his disability and went on to earn business and law degrees from West Virginia University. Deciding to focus his energies in business rather than law, he followed up with an MBA from Indiana University, then accepted an offer to join IBM in 1976.

Although he hadn’t ever really thought of himself as a salesman by nature, Chambers soon discovered that he had a natural gift for sales. He excelled in the IBM sales department even as the company was weathering the difficult transition in the marketplace from large business systems to personal computers. After six years at IBM, Chambers realized that he had risen about as high in the company as possible for a non-engineer such as himself, and moved on to explore new opportunities at Wang Laboratories. Rather unexpectedly for an easygoing West Virginian, Chambers proved a great success as head of Wang’s Asian sales team, and formed a close friendship with An Wang, the company’s Chinese-American founder. The company fell on hard times after Wang’s death in 1990, and though he had risen to the position of executive vice president by then, Chambers decided it was time to look elsewhere.

“Elsewhere” turned out to be Cisco, the company that Chambers would soon revolutionize. He was hired as senior vice president for worldwide sales and operations in late 1990. While his traditional button-down style was something of an anomaly in the jeans and T-shirt geek culture of Silicon Valley, Chambers’s business acumen quickly overcame any qualms that he might not fit in. He soon put together a series of strategic acquisitions that would stimulate and solidify Cisco’s growth into the 21st century. In less than ten years, Cisco closed more than 71 acquisitions, expanding its scope into the design, manufacturing, and sales of products and services encompassing all areas of data networking. Chambers rose to become Cisco’s president and CEO in 1995, and was named Chairman of the Board in 2006. Despite the occasional downturns and rough patches experienced by any major corporation, Cisco has prospered and grown under Chambers’s leadership to become the universally-recognized leader in its field, joining giants such as Apple and Microsoft in the top echelon of technologically innovative and profitable companies.

Chambers continues to lead Cisco into new areas, both in the marketplace and in technology, as Cisco expands into new worldwide markets including network security and video conferencing. He recently predicted that video would become the dominant means of communication in all areas of information technology, with “one million TV stations in the U.S.” as video technology becomes ever more accessible to the individual consumer. With fast and efficient data transfer the key to internet video, Cisco promises to be at the forefront of this burgeoning frontier.

Aside from his masterful leadership of Cisco, however, Chambers is also noted for a long record of philanthropic and public work. Both through his Chambers Family Foundation and other individually-organized initiatives, Chambers has made substantial contributions to victims of the 2008 Chinese earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, and other natural disasters. His Foundation has made endowments and outright gifts to various universities to further medical and scientific research and to further educational efforts. Chambers’s charitable work and his service to two U.S. Presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have been twice honored by the top corporate social responsibility award (ACE) of the U.S. State Department.

John T. Chambers has come a long way for a salesman. Yet throughout his entire career, he has remained focused on the core values he learned in that job: listening to the needs of the customer and doing whatever it takes to meet them. It’s that simple philosophy that has guided Chambers as he has built Cisco into one of the world’s leading technological business success stories.

Vladimir Vapnik, Ph.D.
Columbia University
New York, New York
NEC Laboratories
Princeton, New Jersey
Royal Holloway, University of London
London, United Kingdom
Citation: For his fundamental contributions to our understanding of machine learning, which allows computers to classify new data based on statistical models derived from earlier examples, and for his invention of widely used machine learning techniques.

Computers and automated machines such as robots have reached an enormous level of sophistication, but they can’t actually think—yet. But they can remember, recognize patterns, and make inferences and deductions, all in ways that can be used in real-world industrial, commercial, and scientific applications. Such phenomena are the basis of artificial intelligence, the branch of computer science that encompasses the increasingly important field of machine learning: the creation and development of algorithms that allow machines to learn from new data and change their behavior accordingly. Perhaps the most influential and innovative researcher in machine learning is Vladimir Vapnik, whose career and accomplishments practically define the discipline’s current state of the art.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence draw heavily from mathematics and statistics. Vapnik obtained his M.S. in the former field in 1958 from Uzbek State University and his doctorate in the latter field in 1964 from Moscow’s Institute of Control Sciences, where he would later become head of the computer science department. It was here that he began the work that ultimately led to his development, in collaboration with Alexey Chervonenkis, of Vapnik-Chervonenkis (VC) theory, which uses statistical and mathematical methods to explain the learning process, establishing the foundations of contemporary machine learning theory.

The seminal importance of Vapnik’s work did not begin to be fully recognized until he had the opportunity to leave Soviet Russia for an extended visit to the United States in 1989. He emigrated permanently to the U.S. in 1991 to take up a position at AT&T Bell Labs. At Bell, Vapnik continued to develop and build upon the ideas and implications of VC theory, finally inventing the concept of the support vector machine (SVM), a model and algorithm that allows a computer to identify and predict patterns and classify input into particular categories.

Its mathematically complex underpinnings may make machine learning appear to be mostly an abstract theoretical exercise, but Vapnik’s research and particularly his SVM concept have led to a staggering variety of practical everyday applications. Machine learning algorithms are at the heart of fraud detection in electronic credit card transactions, computer security, speech and handwriting recognition, computerized medical diagnosis, DNA analysis, cataloging and data mining, and a host of other critical functions involving the identification and recognition of patterns and the classification of different types of information. In these and many other functions, Vapnik’s work has moved directly from abstract theory to practical use.
One of the most fascinating aspects of artificial intelligence and machine learning research is that it can provide insight into one of science’s most profound mysteries: the workings of our own brains and consciousness. Although these questions are not the focus of Vapnik’s research, his models of the processes at work during learning and pattern recognition provide another perspective guiding the efforts of scientists studying how the human brain organizes and performs those functions.

Currently Vapnik is a professor of computer science and statistics at Royal Holloway, University of London, and holds a professorship in computer science at Columbia University in New York. Also working on staff at NEC Labs in Princeton, New Jersey, he continues to forge new paths in advanced mathematics, statistics, and their interactions and interconnections within computer science. His honors and awards include election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1996, the 2008 Paris Kanellakis Award, and the Alexander Humboldt Research Award for Lifetime Achievement.
While the question of whether computers will ever be able to think as human beings do may never be truly answered, there is no question that Vladimir Vapnik has invented ways to make them “think” better for all the myriad ways in which we humans use them every day.


Lonnie G. Thompson, Ph.D. and Ellen Mosley-Thompson, Ph.D.
The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio
Citation: For their collective studies of ice cores from around the world which have improved the understanding of Earth’s climate history, including the role of the tropics in global climate change.

As most people know, paleontologists study the record of creatures that are no longer alive—the animals and plants of the dim past, extinct for millions of years. But just as long-gone life forms leave behind a testament of their existence in their fossilized remains, the environment in which that life existed leaves its own record, locked inside the ice, preserved for hundreds of thousands of years in Earth’s glaciers. Dust, sediment, pollen, and other materials locked inside ancient ice can reveal the temperature fluctuations and atmospheric composition of earlier ages, just as the rings of a tree trunk tell the story of a tree’s life. Studying the climatic history of Earth comprises the highly specialized discipline of paleoclimatology, and the husband and wife team of Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson are widely recognized as the world’s preeminent experts in ice core sampling.

Raised in rural West Virginia, Lonnie Thompson studied physics at Marshall University, where he met Ellen Mosley, the only female student in the department at the time. A course in geology and an invitation by a professor to help do some field work swayed him over to earth science, and he graduated with a geology degree. After moving on to graduate school at Ohio State, he discovered paleoclimatology when he helped to analyze deep-ice samples from Antarctica and Greenland. He was fascinated by the stories preserved inside the polar ice, but soon began to realize that some pieces were missing. What about glaciers at lower latitudes, such as the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru? What secrets of the past did tropical ice hold that might be missed at the poles?

In 1974, Lonnie participated in the first expedition to the Quelccaya ice cap, and in 1983 became the first scientist to obtain ice core samples there. Because of the thin air and high altitude of the Andes, the feat demanded both technological and logistical innovations not required at polar sites, including the development of a solar-powered ice drill. The effort was worth it: Thompson’s Quelccaya ice cores revealed new data on climate variability associated with El Niños, dry periods, and monsoon cycles in the tropics. He built on this work with further expeditions and sample collections from the Himalayas, Mount Kilimanjaro, and South America, as well as Antarctica and Greenland.

Meanwhile, while Lonnie was working at lower latitudes, Ellen was looking toward the poles. Changing from the study of physics, she obtained an M.A. and Ph.D. in geography at Ohio State University, with an emphasis on climatology and atmospheric science. Her Ph.D. work involved the analysis of an Antarctic ice core, and she soon found herself leading her own expeditions to both poles. Starting in the 1990s, she collected and studied ice cores from over 60 locations of the Greenland ice sheet, providing the most detailed picture of its climatic history, and is also known for seminal work regarding the impact of volcanic variability on climate. As director of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, she has been a tireless champion for polar and climatological research projects. Ellen has published scores of research papers on the findings of her ice core investigations, and has also co-authored most of Lonnie’s research papers and collaborated with him closely on the chemical and isotopic analysis of his own ice core samples.

Together, the Thompsons have spent their careers piecing together the geological and climatological saga recorded and preserved in the glaciers and deep ice regions of our planet. They have become fierce advocates not only for science in general but for public and political efforts to address the global crisis of climate change, moved to action by the compelling and sobering picture of Earth’s past and its possible future uncovered by their life’s work. More than most people (including those whose vision fails to extend beyond the next election or fiscal cycle), they have witnessed the alarming changes taking place in Earth’s environment “up close and personal,” literally seeing and recording the rapid retreat of the world’s icecaps and confirming that conditions are worsening at a rate far beyond any natural variations of past eras. Because their work has literally encompassed the entire world, the harbingers of climatic change revealed by their ice cores can’t be idly dismissed as minor phenomena limited only to isolated areas. Lonnie first spoke publicly on global warming in 1992, and he and Ellen have since devoted much effort to raising public awareness of the problem, even testifying before Congress and serving as advisors on the Academy-Award-winning 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

Both independently and as a unique scientific team, Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson have helped to transform paleoclimatology from a relatively small subdiscipline of geology into a full-fledged science in its own right. Their work not only opens exciting new windows on our planet’s past, but holds vitally important implications for the present and future of all life on Earth.


Jerry Nelson, Ph.D.
UC Observatories/Lick Observatory
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California
Citation: For his pioneering contributions to the development of segmented-mirror telescopes.

Though we don’t know who actually built the first telescope in the early 17th century, Galileo was the first to use and develop the instrument into a serious scientific tool for astronomy. His innovations opened a new window on the universe for humankind. But by the 20th century, it seemed that the optical telescope had reached its pinnacle of development in 1948 with the 200-inch Hale Telescope on Mount Palomar in California. Most people, including astronomers, thought that it would be physically impossible to ever build a bigger, more powerful telescope than that magnificent instrument.

It took Jerry Nelson to prove them wrong fewer than fifty years later. He devised a wholly new telescope design, a daring, revolutionary notion with at least a thousand reasons why it shouldn’t and couldn’t work—yet Nelson showed that it did. In doing so, he enabled an entirely new generation of powerful and sensitive optical ground-based telescopes to be built, capable of peering more deeply into the universe than ever before possible.

It’s quite an impressive achievement for any scientist, but particularly one who began his career not as an astronomer, but as a high-energy particle physicist. Nelson earned his B.S. in physics in 1965 from Caltech (where he helped to design and build a 1.5 meter diameter telescope) and a doctorate in particle physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1972. In 1977, while Nelson was working as a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, he became part of a committee formed to study the possibility of building a new large telescope as the next step beyond the Hale.

The heart of a large astronomical telescope such as the Hale is its reflecting mirror—the larger the mirror, the more light it can gather, and the more the telescope can see. But while in theory the mirror can be as big as desired, there are physical limits. Bigger mirrors are heavier and thus more difficult to transport and handle, and more prone to optical distortions. The problems increase exponentially with size: if the diameter of the mirror is doubled, its thickness must be quadrupled just to support its own weight. Nelson’s committee quickly realized that creating a single piece of finely-crafted and shaped glass much beyond the 200-inch diameter of the Hale mirror was simply not practical.

Instead, Nelson came up with an ingenious alternative: using an array of smaller segmented mirrors, actively synchronized in real time by a sophisticated electronic control system, working in effect as a single mirror. Because each mirror segment could be small and thin and thus lightweight, the effective diameter of the mirror could be made much larger than a single huge piece of glass.

It was an elegant and simple concept that posed some enormous practical technological challenges. Each segment would have to be precisely shaped to act not as an optically spherical individual mirror, but in such a way to form a much larger optically correct single unit. To achieve this, Nelson invented the technique of “stressed mirror polishing,” in which each segment was mechanically bent “out of shape” to a point at which it could be spherically polished, then released to reform itself back into the desired shape.

The other major technological hurdle of the segmented mirror concept was to ensure that each piece would work together seamlessly, staying in perfect alignment even while in motion, to function as a single surface. If segments were out of phase by even a fraction of a wavelength, the mirror would be useless. Nelson and his team created an intricate system of sensors and mechanical servo actuators to integrate the mirror segments under computer control.

By 1979, Nelson’s committee had finalized its radically innovative concept, and in 1985 the Keck Foundation provided funds to make it a reality by constructing the Keck I and II segmented mirror telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Since the Keck Observatory was completed and began operation in the early 1990s, it has become one of the world’s major centers of science, its state-of-the-art instruments defining and dominating astronomical research and discovery.

Though it first seemed odd and unworkable, Nelson’s segmented mirror concept has ushered in a brand new era in ground-based astronomy, with the construction of several new large telescopes based on the design. One of these is the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT), planned as the first of a new generation of ELTs (Extremely Large Telescopes) for the 21st Century. Nelson is currently serving as project scientist on the TMT, which will be triple the size of his Keck instruments. But even before the TMT sees first light, Nelson’s segmented mirrors will also revolutionize space-based astronomy when the James Webb Space Telescope, the much larger successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, is launched later this decade. Although he joined the faculty of University of California, Santa Cruz in 1994, he continues to serve as a project scientist for the Keck Observatory and as a consultant on telescope design and adaptive optics for other projects. His many professional honors include election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1996, the Andre Lallemand Prize of the French Academy of Sciences, and the Fraunhofer Award/Robert M. Burley Prize of the Optical Society of America.

Both on the ground and in space, Jerry Nelson has transformed the telescope in ways that even Galileo could never have imagined, and vastly expanded the ability of humanity to see and understand the universe.


Sean B. Carroll, Ph.D.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, Wisconsin
Citation: For proposing and demonstrating that the diversity and multiplicity of animal life is largely due to the different ways that the same genes are regulated rather than to mutation of the genes themselves.

Evolution is the key principle guiding life on Earth, as fundamentally important to biology as quantum theory is to physics. But although it’s universally accepted by scientists and firmly established as the bedrock of life science, we are still learning the details of just how evolution works, particularly at the basic genetic level. One approach to understanding evolution compares different organisms to find the common genetic ancestry that governs their developmental processes, thus revealing vital clues to the evolutionary origin and function of those processes. This is a field known as evolutionary developmental biology, or more commonly, “evo-devo.” Sean B. Carroll has emerged as the most visible and influential researcher in evo-devo both among his own scientific colleagues and to the public at large.

When Carroll was still an undergraduate in biology at Washington University in St. Louis in the 1970s, evolution was all about fossils: the remains of long-extinct animals and plants. While their stories could be studied on the larger scale, as the revolution in molecular biology took hold, it became possible to read the saga of life in much greater detail, at its most elemental level—and to study how changes on that level ultimately manifest themselves in the full-scale organism. It is upon this synergy between evolution at both its smallest and largest scales that Sean Carroll focused, as he went on to earn his Ph.D. in immunology at Tufts University School of Medicine, then did post-doctoral work at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Carroll’s work bridges the gap between evolution at the molecular level and at the organismal level, synthesizing a new and powerful model from both. He approached the study of evolution by looking at morphology and how body form and variation were influenced by gene interactions and expression during development. He looked at the patterns of the markings of butterfly wings and particularly the wing shapes and spots of the Drosophila fruit fly, noting the genetic mechanisms that determine such variations and their implications for evolution. His work has revealed how changes in gene regulation affect phenotypic expression and thus evolution in general. Although his theories have sometimes been controversial in the evolutionary biology community, that controversy has led not to discord but, in the true tradition of scientific discourse, to more intensive and detailed research and the development of new ideas and investigative avenues. He continues his groundbreaking research as a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Also working as an investigator at the world-famous Howard Hughes Medical Institute, one of Carroll’s most important roles is that of communicating science to the public, not just the impact of his own work, but the significance of science to society as a whole. His best-selling popular science books include Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo-Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom (2005) and Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origin of Species (2009). He is also widely known as a charismatic and effective media advocate for science, scientific literacy, and evolution, and appears regularly on television, radio, and as a public speaker. His many awards reflect the range of his talents as both a scientist and a science writer; not only is he a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, but he is the recipient of various educational and literary honors, such as the Stephen Jay Gould Prize of the Society for the Study of Evolution and a 2009 finalist for the National Book Award.

But even if he didn’t follow in the distinguished footsteps of past scientist-communicators such as Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan, Sean Carroll would be renowned in any case, as one of the 21st Century’s leading figures in evolutionary biology. He is a true Renaissance man of science, at home whether in the laboratory performing cutting-edge research or at a podium expounding to a rapt audience on the wondrous variety and versatility of life on Earth.

Zvi Hashin, Ph.D.
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv, Israel
Citation: For groundbreaking contributions to the accurate analysis of composite materials, which have enabled practical engineering designs of lightweight composite structures, commonly used today in aerospace, marine, automotive, and civil infrastructure.

We often take for granted the amazing materials that make up so many of the vehicles, tools, and other items we use everyday—the strong yet lightweight composites used in our automobiles, airplanes, even our tennis rackets and golf clubs. But such materials are the result of painstaking research and development, both to devise the material itself and to determine how to utilize it. For five decades, Zvi Hashin has been a leading expert in the mechanics of composite materials, making it possible to build spectacular creations such as the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the first airliner made almost entirely of composites.

By their very definition, composites are made up of different materials, which may vary greatly in their physical characteristics both on the large scale and at the microscopic level. But to be useful, composite materials have to be formulated and assembled in such a way that the possibly differing properties of their constituents will complement each other and create a stronger, more versatile whole. That requires a precise understanding of how each responds to stress and strain loads, so that damage and failure modes can be predicted in the composite material as a whole. This is micromechanics, and Zvi Hashin is universally recognized as the world’s preeminent authority in the micromechanics of composite materials.

Although synthetic and composite materials have been around since at least the 1930s, it was only after World War II that they emerged as a major force in engineering. As techniques for creation of composites became more advanced and their applications more varied, composites became increasingly complex and their physical and mechanical properties more difficult to predict. Accordingly, Hashin developed two major theories on the micromechanics of composite materials which continue to guide their development, design, and applications today: one concerns thermoelastic properties (for example, how a material expands or contracts in response to temperature changes) and the other is used to predict failure modes (how the buildup of stress and strain within a structure or material leads to breakage) . He has also developed widely-used algorithms for calculating various properties of certain types of composites, invaluable for the use of these materials in aerospace applications.

Born in Israel in 1929, Hashin attended the Israel Institute of Technology and went on to obtain his doctorate in engineering at the Sorbonne in Paris. Joining the engineering faculty of Tel Aviv University in 1971 and serving as the founding chairman of the Department of Solid Mechanics, Materials and Structures, he now continues his work as an emeritus professor. Although he continues to reside in Israel, he has also spent a great deal of his career in the United States as a fellow and visiting professor at various institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, and the University of California at Berkeley. Hashin has also taught at the University of Cambridge in England and Ecole Polytechnique in France. He has worked as a consultant for companies all over the world, including General Electric and Scott Paper, and held research contracts with NASA as well as the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy.

Ever since composite materials became an indispensable part of our modern world, many engineers have worked in micromechanics—but none have made as many fundamental and lasting contributions as Zvi Hashin. His theories and work have led composite materials to reach a level of sophistication that would have been unimaginable several decades ago. Hashin’s achievements will continue to drive the maturation and continued progress of composite engineering in the 21st century.

Rashid Sunyaev, D.Sc.
Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics
Garching, Germany
Russian Academy of Sciences
Moscow, Russia
Citation: For his monumental contributions to understanding the early universe and the properties of black holes.

Cosmology and astrophysics are in some ways the most grandly abstract of sciences, not only because they deal with the ultimate questions—how did the universe begin and how will it eventually end?—but also because, in addressing those questions, they confront time and distance at their deepest levels. Throughout more than four decades, Rashid Sunyaev has been asking those ultimate questions, wrestling with their profound implications, and leading generations of scientists to a deeper understanding of the birth, life, and ultimate fate of our universe.

Born in 1943 in Uzbekistan, Sunyaev studied at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and went on to obtain his doctorate from Moscow University under the mentorship of the noted Russian astrophysicist Yakov Zeldovich. He first made his scientific mark in a series of papers in collaboration with Zeldovich on galaxy formation and the nature of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. When the CMB was confirmed in 1965, it provided firm evidence to support Big Bang Theory, proving to be the “echo” of the formation of the universe. While at first the CMB was thought to be completely the same in all directions, Sunyaev and Zeldovich were among the first to predict the existence of slight fluctuations in the CMB spectrum that could provide insight into the accretion of matter and subsequent formation of galaxies in the universe’s early history. These fluctuations were later detected, just as Sunyaev and Zeldovich had predicted, by NASA’s COBE satellite, as well as other ground- and space-based observations.

From this work, the two scientists eventually proposed what came to be known as the Sunyaev-Zeldovich or SZ effect, in which the CMB radiation is distorted by electron scattering in clusters of galaxies. When the initial paper on the SZ effect was published, it seemed more of theoretical than practical interest, because the phenomena it predicted were believed to be almost too subtle to detect. But the development of more sensitive and sophisticated observational technologies, including space-based instruments, have transformed the SZ effect from a theoretical curiosity into a powerful tool for the detection and characterization of galaxy clusters and the Hubble constant of the expansion of the universe. Once again, Sunyaev’s ideas had been proven as observational technology caught up with the range and daring of his theoretical work.

If these contributions had not already secured Rashid Sunyaev’s place as one of the world’s leading astrophysicists, that status would undoubtedly be assured by his 1973 paper (with N.I. Shakura) on the physics of accretion disks, which has become one of the most cited scientific papers of all time. This seminal work continues to serve as the standard model for how matter accretes and flows inward toward a rapidly rotating object such as a black hole or neutron star. Sunyaev expanded upon this work to study how such objects also generate huge amounts of x-rays and gamma rays, providing a foundation upon which much subsequent research in x-ray and gamma ray astronomy has been based.

Sunyaev’s career displays a remarkable breadth of interests, encompassing everything from the origins of the universe itself to the small-scale workings of astronomical phenomena such as black holes and x-ray sources. His active participation as a scientist on various space missions such as the Planck, GRANAT, INTEGRAL, and Spectrum X spacecraft, as well as his close involvement with ground-based astronomical resources including the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, demonstrate that he is equally at home with the hard edge of experimental science as with the abstractions of theoretical work. Currently he serves as the director of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Munich, Germany, as well as Chief Scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences Space Research Institute. He is the recipient of numerous international scientific awards and accolades, including the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Crafoord Prize in Astronomy from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Henry Norris Russell Award from the American Astronautical Society, and the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Sunyaev’s accomplishments are all the more remarkable when considered in light of the fact that he spent much of his career working under the cultural, practical, and budgetary limitations imposed upon science by the regime of the Soviet Union, and then in the turbulent Russian Republic. As more than one colleague has pointed out, the superb quality and importance of his work simply could not be ignored. Rashid Sunyaev continues to ask the big questions about the universe and to train and inspire new generations of scientists to find the answers.