Frank Wilczek

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Frank Wilczek
Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek 2007.jpg
Born Frank Anthony Wilczek
(1951-05-15) May 15, 1951 (age 71)
Mineola, New York, U.S.
Nationality United States
Fields Physics
Institutions MIT
Alma mater University of Chicago (B.S.),
Princeton University (M.A., Ph.D.)
Doctoral advisor David Gross
Doctoral students Mark Alford (*)
Michael Forbes
Martin Greiter
Christoph Holzhey
David Kessler
Finn Larsen
Richard MacKenzie
John March-Russell (*)
Chetan Nayak
Maulik Parikh
Krishna Rajagopal
David Robertson
Sean Robinson
Alfred Shapere
Serkan Cabi
Stephen Wandzura
(*): Jointly a Sidney Coleman student
Known for Asymptotic Freedom
Quantum chromodynamics
Quantum Statistics
Notable awards Sakurai Prize (1986)
Dirac Medal (1994)
Lorentz Medal (2002)
Lilienfeld Prize (2003)
Nobel Prize in Physics (2004)
King Faisal Prize (2005)
Spouse Betsy Devine
Children Amity and Mira[1]

Frank Anthony Wilczek (born May 15, 1951) is an American theoretical physicist, mathematician and a Nobel laureate.[2] He is currently the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).[3]

Wilczek, along with David Gross and H. David Politzer, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004 for their discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction.[4] He is on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Future of Life Institute.[5]


Born in Mineola, New York, of Polish and Italian origin, Wilczek was educated in the public schools of Queens, attending Martin Van Buren High School. It was around this time Wilczek's parents realized that he was exceptional - in part as a result of Frank Wilczek having been administered an IQ test.[6] He was raised Catholic.[7]

He received his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics at the University of Chicago in 1970, a Master of Arts in Mathematics at Princeton University, 1972, and a Ph.D. in physics at Princeton University in 1974.[8] Wilczek holds the Herman Feshbach Professorship of Physics at MIT Center for Theoretical Physics. He worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and was also a visiting professor at NORDITA.

He was awarded the Lorentz Medal in 2002. Wilczek won the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society in 2003. In the same year he was awarded the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics Commemorative Medal from Charles University in Prague. He was the co-recipient of the 2003 High Energy and Particle Physics Prize of the European Physical Society. Wilczek was also the co-recipient of the 2005 King Faisal International Prize for Science.

He currently serves on the board for Society for Science & the Public.

Wilczek was married to Betsy Devine on July 3, 1973, and together they have two daughters, Amity (Academic Dean at Deep Springs College) and Mira (senior partner at Link Ventures.)

Wilczek is an agnostic.

Wilczek has also appeared on an episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, where Penn referred to him as "the smartest person [they have] ever had on the show."


In 1973 Wilczek, a graduate student working with David Gross at Princeton University, discovered asymptotic freedom, which holds that "the closer quarks are to each other, the less the strong interaction (or color charge) between them"; when quarks are in extreme proximity, the nuclear force between them is so weak that they behave almost as free particles. The theory, which was independently discovered by H. David Politzer, was important for the development of quantum chromodynamics.

Wilczek has helped reveal and develop axions, anyons, asymptotic freedom, the color superconducting phases of quark matter, and other aspects of quantum field theory. He has worked on an unusually wide range of topics, ranging across condensed matter physics, astrophysics, and particle physics.

In 2012 he proposed the idea of a space-time crystal.[9]

Current research

In his book The Lightness of Being (2009), he states that the Higgs boson does not explain the origin of mass.[10]


For lay readers


  • 1988. Geometric Phases in Physics.
  • 1990. Fractional Statistics and Anyon Superconductivity.

See also


  1. Frank Wilczek - Autobiography
  2. Biography and Bibliographic Resources, from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, United States Department of Energy. Accessed 14 July 2013
  3. "Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics". Department of Physics, MIT. 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Tore Frängsmyr, editor (2005). "The Nobel Prizes 2004". Les Prix Nobel. Stockholm: Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2008-04-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Who We Are, Future of Life Institute, 2014, retrieved 2014-05-07<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Dreifus, Claudia (December 28, 2009). "Discovering the Mathematical Laws of Nature". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 May 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Frank Wilczek - Biographical
  8. Frank Anthony Wilczek at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  9. Natalie Wolchover (2013-04-30). "Time Crystals' Could Upend Physicists' Theory of Time". Wired.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. The Lightness of Being:Wilczek, Frank. 2009. The Lightness of Being. Chapter: Darkness Revisited

External links