Frank Wilczek

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Frank Wilczek
Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek 2007.jpg
Wilczek in 2007
Frank Anthony Wilczek

(1951-05-15) May 15, 1951 (age 67)
Nationality United States
Education University of Chicago (B.S.),
Princeton University (M.A., Ph.D.)
Known for Asymptotic Freedom
Quantum chromodynamics
Quantum Statistics
Spouse(s) Betsy Devine
ChildrenAmity and Mira [1]
Awards MacArthur Fellowship (1982)
Sakurai Prize (1986)
Dirac Medal (1994)
Lorentz Medal (2002)
Lilienfeld Prize (2003)
Nobel Prize in Physics (2004)
King Faisal Prize (2005)
Scientific career
Fields Physics
Institutions MIT
T. D. Lee Institute and Wilczek Quantum Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Arizona State University
Stockholm University
Thesis Non-abelian gauge theories and asymptotic freedom  (1974)
Doctoral advisor David Gross

Frank Anthony Wilczek ( /ˈwɪlɛk/ ; [2] born May 15, 1951) is an American theoretical physicist, mathematician and a Nobel laureate. He is currently the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Founding Director of T. D. Lee Institute and Chief Scientist Wilczek Quantum Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), Distinguished Origins Professor at Arizona State University (ASU) and full Professor at Stockholm University. [3]

Theoretical physics branch of physics

Theoretical physics is a branch of physics that employs mathematical models and abstractions of physical objects and systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. This is in contrast to experimental physics, which uses experimental tools to probe these phenomena.

Mathematics Field of study concerning quantity, patterns and change

Mathematics includes the study of such topics as quantity, structure, space, and change.

Herman Feshbach was an American physicist. He was an Institute Professor Emeritus of physics at MIT. Feshbach is best known for Feshbach resonance and for writing, with Philip M. Morse, Methods of Theoretical Physics.


Wilczek, along with David Gross and H. David Politzer, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004 for their discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction. [4] He is on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Future of Life Institute.

David Gross American particle physicist and string theorist

David Jonathan Gross is an American theoretical physicist and string theorist. Along with Frank Wilczek and David Politzer, he was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of asymptotic freedom. Gross is the Chancellor’s Chair Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and was formerly the KITP director and holder of their Frederick W. Gluck Chair in Theoretical Physics. He is also a faculty member in the UC Santa Barbara Physics Department and is currently affiliated with the Institute for Quantum Studies at Chapman University in California. He is a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Nobel Prize in Physics One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Physics is a yearly award given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for those who have made the most outstanding contributions for humankind in the field of physics. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others being the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

In particle physics, asymptotic freedom is a property of some gauge theories that causes interactions between particles to become asymptotically weaker as the energy scale increases and the corresponding length scale decreases.


Born in Mineola, New York, of Polish and Italian origin, [5] Wilczek was educated in the public schools of Queens, attending Martin Van Buren High School. It was around this time Wilczek's parents realized that he was exceptional—in part as a result of Frank Wilczek having been administered an IQ test. [6] He was raised Catholic but later "lost faith in conventional religion". [5] He has been described as an agnostic [7] [8] but tweeted in 2013 that "pantheist" is "closer to the mark". [9]

Mineola, New York Village in New York, United States

Mineola is a village in Nassau County, Long Island, New York, United States. The population was 18,799 at the 2010 census. The name is derived from an Algonquin word meaning a "pleasant village".

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York, officially the State of New York, is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original Thirteen Colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. To distinguish the state from the city in the state with the same name, it is sometimes called New York State.

He received his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and membership in Phi Beta Kappa [10] at the University of Chicago in 1970, a Master of Arts in Mathematics at Princeton University, 1972, and a Ph.D. in physics at Princeton University in 1974. [11] In 1982, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. [12] Wilczek holds the Herman Feshbach Professorship of Physics at MIT Center for Theoretical Physics. He worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and was also a visiting professor at NORDITA.

A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years, or a person holding such a degree.

Phi Beta Kappa honor society for the liberal arts and sciences in the United States

The Phi Beta Kappa Society (ΦΒΚ) is the oldest academic honor society in the United States, and is often described as its most prestigious honor society, due to its long history and academic selectivity. Phi Beta Kappa aims to promote and advocate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences, and to induct the most outstanding students of arts and sciences at American colleges and universities. It was founded at the College of William and Mary on December 5, 1776 as the first collegiate Greek-letter fraternity and was among the earliest collegiate fraternal societies.

University of Chicago Private research university in Chicago, Illinois, United States

The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller, the school is located on a 217-acre campus in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, near Lake Michigan. The University of Chicago holds top-ten positions in various national and international rankings.

Wilczek became a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000. [13] He was awarded the Lorentz Medal in 2002. Wilczek won the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society in 2003. In the same year he was awarded the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics Commemorative Medal from Charles University in Prague. He was the co-recipient of the 2003 High Energy and Particle Physics Prize of the European Physical Society. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2004 was awarded jointly to David J. Gross, H. David Politzer and Frank Wilczek "for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction.” Wilczek was also the co-recipient of the 2005 King Faisal International Prize for Science. On January 25, 2013 Wilczek received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Science and Technology at Uppsala University, Sweden. [14]

Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences Society of scientists and institute

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences is an organization dedicated to the advancement of science and literature in the Netherlands. The academy is housed in the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam.

Lorentz Medal award

Lorentz Medal is a distinction awarded every four years by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. It was established in 1925 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the doctorate of Hendrik Lorentz. The medal is given for important contributions to theoretical physics, though in the past there have been some experimentalists among its recipients.

The Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society, to remember Julius Edgar Lilienfeld, has been awarded annually, since 1989.. The purpose of the Prize is to recognize outstanding contributions to physics.

He currently serves on the board for Society for Science & the Public and is a co-founding member of the Kosciuszko Foundation of the Collegium of Eminent Scientists of Polish Origin and Ancestry. [15]

Society for Science & the Public (SSP), formerly known as Science Service, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of science, through its science education programs and publications, including the bi-weekly Science News magazine and the free-accessible online Science News for Students.

Kosciuszko Foundation

Kosciuszko Foundation is a charitable foundation based in New York City. It was created by Stephen Mizwa to fund programs that promote Polish-American intellectual and artistic exchange.

Wilczek was married to Betsy Devine on July 3, 1973, and together they have two daughters, Amity (Academic Dean at Deep Springs College) and Mira (senior partner at Link Ventures.)

Wilczek said that "the world embodies beautiful ideas" but "although this may inspire a spiritual interpretation, it does not require one". [16] [17]

Wilczek has appeared on an episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! , where Penn referred to him as "the smartest person [they have] ever had on the show."

In 2014, Wilczek penned a letter, along with Stephen Hawking and two other scholars, warning that "Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks." [18] He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Future of Life Institute, an organization that works to mitigate existential risks facing humanity, particularly existential risk from advanced artificial intelligence. [19] He is also a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which advocates for democratic reform in the United Nations, and the creation of a more accountable international political system. [20]


In 1973, while a graduate student working with David Gross at Princeton University, Wilczek (together with Gross) discovered asymptotic freedom, which holds that the closer quarks are to each other, the less the strong interaction (or color charge) between them; when quarks are in extreme proximity, the nuclear force between them is so weak that they behave almost as free particles. The theory, which was independently discovered by H. David Politzer, was important for the development of quantum chromodynamics.

Wilczek has helped reveal and develop axions, anyons, asymptotic freedom, the color superconducting phases of quark matter, and other aspects of quantum field theory. He has worked on condensed matter physics, astrophysics, and particle physics.

In 2012 he proposed the idea of a time crystal. [21] In 2018, several research teams reported the existence of time crystals. [22]

Current research


For lay readers


See also

Related Research Articles

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  1. "Frank Wilczek - Autobiography".
  2. Frank Wilczek: "A Beautiful Question" – Talks at Google
  3. "Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics". Department of Physics, MIT. 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
  4. Tore Frängsmyr, ed. (2005). "The Nobel Prizes 2004". Les Prix Nobel. Stockholm: Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
  5. 1 2 "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2004".
  6. Dreifus, Claudia (December 28, 2009). "Discovering the Mathematical Laws of Nature". The New York Times . Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  7. Farrell, John. "God As Ultimate Artist: Frank Wilczek's Beautiful Question". Forbes.
  8. Wang, Amy X. (4 August 2015). "Why Is the World So Beautiful? A Physicist Tries to Answer". Slate Magazine.
  9. Wilczek, Frank (8 September 2013). "My Wikipedia entry says "agnostic", but "pantheist" is closer to the mark. Spinoza, Beethoven, Walt Whitman, Einstein – good company!".
  11. Frank Anthony Wilczek at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  12. "Frank Wilczek - MacArthur Foundation". Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  13. "F.A. Wilczek". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 14 February 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  14. "New honorary doctorates in science and technology - Uppsala University, Sweden". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  15. "Kosciuszko Foundation - American Center of Polish culture - Eminent Scientists of Polish Origin and Ancestry".
  16. 'A Beautiful Question' pp 1-3, 322
  17. "A theoretical physicist searches for the design behind nature's beauty". Slate . Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  18. "Stephen Hawking: 'Transcendence looks at the implications of artificial intelligence - but are we taking AI seriously enough?'". The Independent (UK) . 1 May 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  19. Who We Are, Future of Life Institute, 2014, retrieved 2014-05-07
  20. "Overview". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
  21. Natalie Wolchover (2013-04-30). "Time Crystals' Could Upend Physicists' Theory of Time". Wired.
  22. Ball, Phillip (July 17, 2018). "In Search of Time Crystals". Physics World. Retrieved March 23, 2019. "We discovered experimentally that discrete time crystals not only exist, but that this phase is also remarkably robust." Mikhail Lukin, Harvard University