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Physicist John Madey to be awarded the Robert R. Wilson Prize in 2012

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Pui K. Lam, (808) 956-2988
Professor and Chair, Physics and Astronomy
Posted: Nov 2, 2011

John Madey
John Madey

The American Physical Society (APS) recently announced that UH Mānoa Physics Professor John Madey will be awarded the APS 2012 Robert R. Wilson prize "for the invention and first experimental demonstration of the free electron laser and important contributions to its conceptual development."  The Prize will be presented to Madey at the APS April 2012 meeting in Atlanta, GA, from March 31-April 3, 2012.

The Robert R. Wilson Prize was established in 1986 to recognize and encourage outstanding achievement in the physics of particle accelerators.  Robert R. Wilson was an iconic American physicist who lead the effort in creating the Fermi National Acceleration Laboratory and served as its director from 1967-1978.   The Robert R. Wilson Prize is considered very prestigious among physicists internationally.

Madey received both a BS degree in Physics and a MS degree in Quantum Electronics from the California Institute of Technology (BS 1964, MS 1965).   He then went to Stanford to pursue his doctoral degree.  While at Stanford as a graduate student, Madey invented the Free-Electron Laser (FEL) and published the seminal paper on the theory of FEL operation. After receiving his PhD in 1970 from Stanford, he accepted a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship and led the effort at Stanford to develop the first FEL amplifiers and oscillators.  Madey was appointed as Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford in 1986.  In 1988, Madey was recruited by Duke University to start their FEL Program.   In 1998, Madey left Duke and came to UH Mānoa to start the UH FEL Program.   Throughout Madey's career, he has made numerous contributions to the physics of free-electron lasers and their applications.  He holds many patents on innovative technologies.

As a child, Madey and his older brother, Jules Madey, were avid ham radio operators.   Using their 110-foot radio tower built in their backyard in New Jersey, they helped many Navy crew members that worked in Antarctica to get in touch with their families (see article at   Madey has often remarked that it was his early interest in ham radio that eventually led him to the invention of the free-electron laser.   In addition to his scientific contributions, Madey has a genuine interest and desire to mentor a new generation of physicists.

Since their first demonstration in 1972, Free Electron Lasers have been developed as powerful tools for research in medicine and biology, electronic materials, nuclear physics and manufacturing by virtue of their high power and coherence and ability to operate at wavelengths at which no other light sources are available. It is now generally accepted that FELs represent the most effective light sources available for analysis of the complex crystal structures central to the understanding of fundamental biological structures and processes, and several major new facilities have been developed in the United States, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere to pursue this ground breaking new scientific program.

The UH Free-Electron Laser is one of the five free-electron lasers currently operating in the US. The faculty of the FEL group at UH are pursuing the applications of the UH FEL to the study of fundamental problems in classical and quantum physics and to atmospheric remote sensing. The faculty is also pursuing the development of lower cost, compact FEL-based x-ray and gamma ray light sources for applications in the imaging and analysis of crystal structures in proteomics and genomics and the identification of concealed nuclear materials.

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