Perimeter Institute Distinguished Research Chair Yakir Aharonov has been awarded the highest honour bestowed on scientists by the United States government, the National Medal of Science. The award was presented by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony on November 17.
PI Director Neil Turok commented, “Within the world of physics, Professor Aharonov is simply a legend. His career has been characterized by a series of brilliant and unexpected insights into the deepest aspects of quantum theory and their manifestations in real phenomena.”
The National Medal, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the biological, social, physical or mathematical sciences, has been awarded annually since 1959. Previous recipients in physics include such luminaries as Richard Feynman and Hans Bethe. The Medal is the latest in a long list of accolades awarded to Professor Aharonov for his work on the foundations of quantum mechanics; he has previously been honoured with the Wolf Prize in Physics, and holds four honorary doctorates from universities on three continents.
Professor Aharonov’s best-known discovery is the Aharonov-Bohm effect, a quantum phenomenon which fundamentally advanced modern physics by demonstrating that potentials, not forces, were the most appropriate language in which to describe the quantum world. The implications of the Aharonov-Bohm effect are still being probed by researchers in quantum foundations, more than 50 years after its discovery.
Other important contributions to physics made by Professor Aharonov include the theory of weak measurement, which allows certain classes of quantum systems to be measured without altering their state. He is also the co-discoverer of the Aharonov-Casher effect, an effect dual to the Aharonov-Bohm effect that has proven important to experimental quantum computing.
According to PI Faculty member Lucien Hardy, “Professor Aharonov’s no-nonsense approach to the foundations of quantum theory has been a tremendous inspiration to generations of physicists interested in the detailed conceptual structure of the theory. His work on understanding quantum theory in terms of pre- and post-selected ensembles, in particular, continues to provide deep and fundamental insights that will, I expect, prove important in future developments of theoretical physics.”
In addition to his visiting researcher appointment as a Perimeter Distinguished Research Chair, Professor Aharonov is the James J. Farley Professor in Natural Philosophy at Chapman University and Professor Emeritus at Tel Aviv University in Israel.