American physicist Frank Wilczek (1951), who is attached to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been awarded the Lorentz Medal 2002. He has received the prize for his pioneering work in particle physics.
Professor Wilczek is one of the most influential theoretical physicists of his generation. He was an instrumental figure in the discovery of the phenomenon known as 'asymptotic freedom'. This is a phenomenon whereby the building blocks which make up the nucleus of an atom - 'quarks' - behave as free particles when they are close together, but become more strongly attracted to each other as the distance between them increases. This theory forms the key to the interpretation of almost all experimental studies involving modern particle accelerators. In the view of the Academy, Wilczek's work is characterised by both its breadth and its depth. For example, his research on particles which can only move in a two-dimensional plane was of great importance in the understanding of two-dimensional electron gases in semiconductors.
About the laureate
Professor Wilczek studied at the universities of Chicago and Princeton, where he obtained his doctorate in 1974. He later became professor of physics at Princeton and at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since 2000 he has held the Herman Feshbach chair at MIT. He is a member of the American National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Dirac Medal (1994) and the Michelson-Morley Prize (2002). In recent years Professor Wilczek has developed a close association with physics in the Netherlands, and in 1998 he was the Lorentz Professor at Leiden University. He recently became an international member of KNAW. Frank Wilczek regularly speaks and writes on theoretical physics for a wide audience.