Henry Way Kendall Biography

Henry Way Kendall (1926–1999) was a leading American physicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1990.

Quick Facts

Birthday: December 9, 1926

Nationality: American

Famous: American Men Amherst College

Died At Age: 72

Sun Sign: Sagittarius

Born in: Boston, Massachusetts, US

Famous as: Physicist

Died on: February 15, 1999

place of death: Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

Cause of Death: Accident

City: Boston

U.S. State: Massachusetts

Founder/Co-Founder: Union of Concerned Scientists

More Facts

education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Amherst College, Deerfield Academy

awards: Nobel Prize in Physics (1990)

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Henry Way Kendall (1926–1999) was a leading American physicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1990, along with his colleagues Jerome Friedman and Richard Taylor, “for their pioneering investigations concerning deep inelastic scattering of electrons on protons and bound neutrons, which have been of essential importance for the development of the quark model in particle physics." He was the J. A. Stratton Professor of Physics at MIT. Along with his engaged in research and teaching, Kendall was also active in writing, analysis, and public activities related to U.S. energy and defense matters and global issues of environmental pressures, arms control, resource management, population growth, and climate change. A founder and leader of the Union of Concerned Scientists, he was active and highly influential in areas related to energy, defense, and the environment. Recognized for his broad scientific knowledge and engagement in critical issues, he was often called upon to speak, serve on panels and committees, and testify in government hearings. In addition to his extensive scientific and advocacy work, Henry W. Kendall led an active life. He participated in major mountain climbing expeditions, carrying cameras to record spectacular scenes. He did exploratory diving and made advances in underwater photography. He also took active interest in maritime history.

Childhood & Early Life
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  • Upon receiving his degree in 1955 Henry began his postdoctoral career at MIT and Brookhaven National Laboratory, and made his first foray into innovative instrumentation.
  • In 1956 he took a research position at Stanford University, attracted by the program of Robert Hofstadter that was measuring the size of atomic nuclei by means of elastic electron scattering.
  • He remained at Stanford until returning to MIT as a faculty member in 1961, becoming a full professor in 1967 and the Julius A. Stratton Professor of Physics in 1991.
  • He then spent five years in Robert Hofstadter's research group at Stanford University in the late 50's and early 60's, where he worked with Jerome Friedman and Richard Taylor, studying the structure of protons and neutrons, using the university's 300 feet long linear electron accelerator. He developed a close working relationship with Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky at Stanford.
  • He then returned to the MIT Physics Department, where he remained for the rest of his life.
  • In the late 60's and early '70s, Kendall worked in collaboration with researchers at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) including Friedman and Taylor. These experiments involved scattering high-energy beams of electrons from protons and deuterons and heavier nucleii. At lower energies, it had already been found that the electrons would only be scattered through low angles, consistent with the idea that the nucleons had no internal structure. However, the SLAC-MIT experiments showed that higher energy electrons could be scattered through much higher angles, with the loss of some energy. These deep inelastic scattering results provided the first experimental evidence that the protons and neutrons were made up of point-like particles, later identified to be the up and down quarks. The experiments also provided the first evidence for the existence of gluons.
  • In 1982 he and Friedman joined Frank Taylor in a Fermilab neutrino experiment that brought them back much closer to their deep-inelastic roots. This continued until 1988, when they joined the SLAC program of electron-positron annihilation experiments.
  • Henry exhibited a deep commitment to a variety of societal causes throughout his life, most of which were science and technology related. He was especially concerned by the dangers inherent in the exploitation of nuclear physics for both military and civilian ends. His first major involvement was in the 1960s, through membership in the JASON Group of the Institute for Defense Analyses. In those days the JASON Group, comprising a large number of particle physicists and a lesser number of scientists in other fields, advised the Department of Defense on a variety of military issues, concentrating on the nuclear arms race as well as the electronic barrier concept aimed to suppress guerrilla activity during the Vietnam War.
  • In 1969 he joined colleagues in the MIT physics department who had founded the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
  • In 1974 UCS became a formally organized nonprofit organization, with Henry as its chair from then until his death. Under his leadership UCS grew steadily in reach and effectiveness. He was personally involved in its programs on nuclear arms control, missile defense, and renewable energy.
  • Kendall was not only a very accomplished physicist, but also a very skilled mountaineer and photographer. He did extensive rock climbing in Yosemite Valley, followed by expeditions to the Andes, the Himalayas and Antarctica, photographing his experiences with large format cameras.
Awards & Achievements
  • Henry Way Kendall shared the 1990 Nobel Prize for Physics with Jerome Isaac Friedman and Richard E. Taylor.
  • In addition to his membership in the National Academy of Sciences (elected in 1992), Henry Kendall was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the American Association of Arts and Sciences.
  • He was awarded a number of prizes in addition to the 1990 Nobel Prize. These included the Bertram Russell Society Award in 1982, the Environmental Leadership Award from the Tufts University’s Lincoln Filene Center in 1991.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Henry died at the age of 72 in February 1999 in a diving accident while accompanying a National Geographic expedition in Florida.

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