Willis Eugene Lamb, Jr.

Willis Eugene Lamb, Jr. was born on July 12, 1913 in Los Angeles, California. He attended Los Angeles public schools and in 1930 entered the University of California at Berkeley. He received a B.S. in chemistry in 1934. His graduate work in theoretical physics at the same university led to a Ph.D. in 1938. J.R. Oppenheimer directed his thesis research on the electromagnetic properties of nuclear systems.

Lamb began his teaching career at Columbia University as an instructor in physics in 1938. Within a decade he became a full professor. From 1943 to 1951, he was associated with the Columbia Radiation Laboratory where his Nobel-prize winning research was performed. In 1951 he went to Stanford University as a professor of physics. Over the next decade Lamb held positions at Harvard University, Oxford University, England, and Yale University. He also taught at the University of Arizona.

Lamb’s research covered many topics including: theory of the interactions of neutrons and matter, field theories of nuclear structure, theories of beta decay, range of fission fragments, fluctuations in cosmic ray showers, pair production, order-disorder problems, ejection of electrons by metastable atoms, quadrupole interactions in molecules, diamagnetic corrections for nuclear resonance experiments; theory and design of magneton oscillators, theory of a microwave spectroscope, study of the fine structure of hydrogen, deuterium and helium; theory of electrodynamic energy level displacements.

Among his many honors are the 1955 Nobel Prize in Physics, the Rumford Premium of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Research Corporation Award. Lamb also received an honorary degree from The University of Pennsylvania. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Lamb died May 15, 2008.

OSA Awards Won

Honorary