Solar Neutrinos Shine on a New Nobel Laureate
As the Gazette was going to press last month, we learned that Dr. Raymond Davis Jr. Hon’90, research professor of physics and astronomy at Penn and a research collaborator in chemistry at the Brookhaven Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., has been awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in physics for his pioneering research in the field of solar neutrinos. He will share the prize with Masatoshi Koshiba of the University of Tokyo and Riccardo Giacconi of Associated Universities, Inc. in Washington.
Penn President Judith Rodin called the award a “great moment for this extraordinary researcher, for the University, and for the world of science,” adding that “his pathbreaking work has given rise to the discipline of neutrino astrophysics, a field that has already told us much about our own sun and other astronomical objects and may yield equally stunning insights into the nature of matter itself.” She hailed Davis, who served as adjunct professor of astronomy from 1973-1983 before joining the standing faculty in 1985, as “an inspiration to his peers worldwide.”
The prize was awarded to Davis and Koshiba for their research into the emission of neutrinos produced by nuclear-fusion reactions in the center of the Sun. In his 1960s experiment—conducted in a South Dakota gold mine and performed while he was working for Brookhaven—Davis detected solar neutrinos by observing the neutrino-induced conversion of chlorine atoms into argon atoms. The number of neutrinos he detected reaching the Earth was only a third of the number predicted by the standard solar model. His findings have been confirmed and elucidated by later experiments in which Penn has played a major role [“The Particle Sleuths,” September/October 2001].
It was the second major honor this year for the 87-year-old Davis, who in June was awarded the National Medal of Science [“Gazetteer,” July/August]. And it was the second Nobel in the last three years for Penn: Dr. Alan MacDiarmid, the Blanchard Professor of Chemistry, shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in chemistry with former Penn physics professor Dr. Alan J. Heeger and Dr. Hideki Shirakawa of the University of Tsukuba, Japan [“The Boy Chemist at 75,” March/April].