Dr. Marlan O. Scully, researcher at Baylor University in Waco, Texas (US) and member of the US National Academy of Sciences, will receive the 2012 Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus Quinn Prize, the highest award given by the Optical Society (OSA), for his work in quantum optics. The award is given in recognition of a lifetime of work in the optics field.
Scully will receive the award on 15 October during the OSA’s annual conference, Frontiers in Optics, in Rochester, New York (US). After accepting the medal, Scully will give his plenary speech, “The Quantum Photocell: Efficiency via Quantum Coherence.”
Truell Hyde, vice provost of research and director of the Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research (CASPER) at Baylor, said Scully is very deserving of the award. “He has been the foremost quantum optics physicist in the world for a long time,” he said. “He is a renaissance man [who] is well-versed in other scholarly areas and has published works in all of them.”
Scully said he is receiving the award for his contributions in four topics in the field of quantum optics:
• The quantum theory of lasers, which is the fundamental description of laser behavior that connects with aspects of the natural world, such as condensation.
• Quantum coherence effects, which also involve lasers but focus on oscillating particles and using them for different purposes, such as freezing light and detecting small amounts of anthrax.
• Quantum thermodynamics, which studies heat and work and figures out how they work within quantum systems.
• Quantum erasure, which deals with erasing information about a particle’s predicted path while tracking the particle in an experiment.
Scully said he became interested in the quantum optics field when he was a college student. “The laser was just a new device when I was student, and we didn’t understand many of the aspects of laser behavior,” he said. “So my teacher, Willis Lamb, suggested that this would be a fruitful topic to study, and I worked with him on it, thus getting involved in the field.” The late Willis Lamb was a famous American physicist who won the Nobel Peace Prize with his colleague, the late German-American Polykarp Kusch, for their discoveries concerning the structure of the hydrogen spectrum. Lamb was also a professor at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut (US).
“I went to the University of Wyoming,” he said. “I received a call from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. They told me I could skip the bachelor’s degree and start on my Ph.D. I went there as an employee, and after a year, even though I worked with General Electric, I found out Willis Lamb was coming to Yale. I went to Yale and did my Ph.D. with Lamb. I was hired by MIT on the faculty and have been a professor since. I have been a professor for 50 years.”
Scully has written around 800 published papers on quantum physics and other topics, and three books. One of his books, The Demon and the Quantum, was a collaboration with his son, Robert Scully.
Besides his work as a professor and scientific writer, Scully is also involved in 12 organizations and foundations that focus on quantum optics, including the OSA, the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.