Philip Warren Anderson is an American physicist and one of the joint winners, with John H. Van Vleck and Sir Nevill F. Mott, of the 1977 Nobel Prize for Physics. He grew up in Urbana, Illinois, where his father was a professor of plant pathology at the University of Illinois. Philip Anderson showed a distinct inclination towards mathematics while he was a student at University Laboratory High School. After graduating from high school, he won the full-support National Scholarship and took admission in the prestigious Harvard University. He had to discontinue his course at Harvard University in order to work for the Naval Research Laboratory at the height of the Second World War; however he returned to education at the end of the war and completed his education, eventually earning a doctorate. His career as a professional was primarily spent at Bell Laboratories, for whom he worked for more than three decades and where he developed Anderson localisation and invented the Anderson Hamiltonian. His most important work was on the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems for which he won the Nobel Prize. Anderson is without doubt one of the most important scientists of his generation.
Childhood & Early Life
Philip Warren Anderson was born on 13 December 1923, in Indianapolis, United States, to Harry Warren Anderson and his wife. His father was employed as a professor of plant pathology at the University of Illinois in Urbana.
Philip grew up in Urbana, Illinois and studied at the well known University Laboratory High School. During his school years, he also spent some time in Europe and England when his father took a sabbatical. He graduated from the University Laboratory High School in 1940. During his school days, he developed a special affinity towards mathematics.
After graduating from high school, he was among the selected few students who were sent to Harvard on full-support National Scholarship. At Harvard, he concentrated more on Electronic Physics since it could be beneficial towards the war effort. He also had a stint at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory from 1943 to 1945, where he built antennas.
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In 1945, he entered into the post graduate programme at Harvard University and four years later, he was awarded his doctorate by the university. During his post graduate studies at Harvard University, he studied under the guidance of the celebrated American physicist John Hashbrouk Van Vleck.
In 1949, he started working for Bell Telephone Laboratories located in Murray Hill in New Jersey and continued to work for the organisation for 35 years. During his long tenure at the organisation, he was involved in research in the subject of condensed matter physics and some of his most well known discoveries were that of Anderson localisation and Anderson Hamiltonian.
In 1963, he was made a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences due to his scientific achievements and four years later, he was appointed as a professor at Cambridge University in UK. He taught theoretical physics at the university for eight years and throughout his tenure he continued to work on Theory of Condensed Matter with fellow researchers at Cambridge.
In 1975, he was made a professor at Princeton University and two years later he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with John van Vleck and Sir Nevill Francis Mott for the joint research that they did on the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems. In the meantime, he continued to work at Princeton University and Bell Telephone Laboratories.
During his career as a scientist, he worked on and wrote on a wide variety of subjects. Some of his most notable works include ‘Concept of Solids’, ‘Theory of Superconductivity in the High-Tc Cuprates’ and ‘Basic Notions of Condensed Physics’. Currently, he is a member of the board of advisors of Scientists and Engineers for America, an organization that promotes of sound science in American government.
Philip Warren Anderson did path-breaking work research on semiconductors, superconductivity, and magnetism. He developed Anderson localization—which refers to the absence of diffusion of waves in a disordered medium—and invented Anderson Hamiltonian.
Awards & Achievements
Philip Warren Anderson won the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize, in 1964.
He shared the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physics with Sir Nevill Francis Mott and John Hasbrouck van Vleck. The award was given to them "for their fundamental theoretical investigations of the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems".
He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1980.
In 1982, he was honored with the National Medal of Science.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Joyce Gothwaite, a painter, in 1947. The couple has a daughter named Susan.