The Bruce Medalists


  Photo by Floyd Clark, courtesy Archives, California Institute of Technology
William Alfred Fowler
9 August 1911 1979 Bruce Medalist 14 March 1995

“Willy” Fowler earned his B.S. in engineering physics at Ohio State University and his Ph.D. in nuclear physics at the California Institute of Technology, where he remained for the rest of his life, aside from frequent visits to the University of Cambridge. For decades he investigated the nuclear reactions believed to occur in stellar interiors. He and his colleagues and successors at Caltech’s Kellogg Radiation Laboratory measured the rates of nearly all nuclear reactions of astrophysical interest. He coauthored, with Margaret Burbidge, Geoffrey Burbidge, and Fred Hoyle, the famous 1957 paper, “Synthesis of the Elements in Stars,” known as B2FH. They showed how the cosmic abundances of essentially all but the lightest nuclides could be explained as the result of nuclear reactions in stars. After 1964 Fowler worked on theoretical problems involving supernovae, gravitational collapse, neutrinos, formation of light elements, and nucleocosmochronology.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Mercury 8, 75 (1979).

Other awards
American Astronomical Society, Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, 1963.
Vetlesen Foundation, Vetlesen Prize, 1973
Legion d’Honneur, 1989.
National Science Foundation, National Medal of Science, 1974.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Jansky Lectureship, 1988.
Nobel Foundation, Nobel prize, physics, 1983.
Royal Astronomical Society, Eddington medal, 1978.

Some offices held
American Physical Society, President, 1976.

Biographical materials
Caltech Archives, Biography accompanying Fowler’s papers
Clayton, Donald D., Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers (Springer, NY, 2007), pp. 382-84.
Fowler, William A., Autobiography on receipt of Nobel Prize.
Fowler, William A., “From Steam to Stars in the Early Universe,” Annual Review of Astronomy & Astrophysics 30, 1-9 (1992).

Barnes, Charles A., Physics Today 48, 9, 116-18 (1995) (see also letter on p. 124.)
Burbidge, Geoffrey, QJRAS 37, 89-90 (1996).
Clayton, D. J. , PASP 108, 1-7 (1996).
Hoyle, Fred, Nature 374, 406 (1995).
Woosley, Stan, Bull. American Astron. Soc. 27, 1475-77 (1995).
More obituaries

Caltech Archives [many]
AIP Center for History of Physics
Clemson University, Photo Archive in Nuclear Astrophysics [includes many candid shots with others].
Sonoma State University, speaking 31 March 1986 (photo by JST)

Named after him
Minor Planet #12137 Williefowler

More references

The Bruce Medalists

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