Leo P. Kadanoff
Wolf Prize Laureate in Physics 1980
The Prize Committee in Physics for 1980 decided that the prize this year will be divided equally among: Leo P. Kadanoff ,Michael E. Fisher and Kenneth G. Wilson.
Leo P. Kadanoff
University of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois, USA
“for path breaking developments culminating in the general theory of the critical behavior at transitions between the different thermodynamic phases of matter.”
The set of theoretical ideas, which these three men have had the central roles in developing are of the most fundamental importance to physics and chemistry. They constitute the long hoped-for solution, in an unexpected and exciting form, to questions about critical points and critical fluctuations first formulated in the early 1930’s and later brought into sharper focus by an increasing body of experimental data and numerical analyses, much of it done by or under the stimulus of Fisher. To chemistry these ideas contribute new insights to the nature of thermodynamic phases as well as the solution of one of its oldest problems; to physics a new and elegant methodology which Kadanoff and especially Wilson have shown to be relevant to many important and apparently unrelated problems of quantum physics, especially the gauge theory of strong interactions between elementary particles and the quantum theory of magnetic impurity systems. The power and generality of this new conceptual structure is only beginning to be properly tested by these extensions to new fields.
Professor Leo P. Kadanoff has made excellent theoretical research, which he is still carrying on, in several fields of physics, but more particularly on phase transitions and critical-point phenomena. The latter work was seminal to an understanding of these matters, inspiring a great deal of further study by many theorists.