Kenneth G. Wilson
Wolf Prize Laureate in Physics 1980
Kenneth G. Wilson
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Cornell University, 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 Kenneth G. Wilson Wilson’s work is characterized by astonishing range and depth. His research and discoveries have revealed hitherto unperceived connections between several areas of great interest to contemporary physics. His major works have ranged over areas that had appeared to be totally disconnected. in each of which he has made major advances, most particularly in the field of phase transitions where his work has revolutionized the subject.