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Daniel Kleppner

Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics, emeritus

Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics, emeritus

Daniel Kleppner
Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics, emeritus

Daniel Kleppner is the Lester Wolfe professor of physics, emeritus and the co-director of the MIT–Harvard Center for Ultra-Cold Atoms. Throughout his career, he made fundamental contributions to atomic physics and quantum optics, mainly using hydrogen and hydrogen-like atoms. In 1960, along with Norman Ramsey, Professor Kleppner developed the hydrogen maser and in the 1970s, he was a pioneer in the physics of Rydberg atoms. He and Thomas Greytak, his colleague at the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), were among the first to look for quantum degeneracy effects in ultra-cold gases. After a 20-year quest, they achieved Bose–Einstein condensation in hydrogen in 1998. From 1987 to 2000, Professor Kleppner was associate director of the RLE; in 2001, he served as interim director. Professor Kleppner is the winner of the 2005 Wolf Prize in Physics, the 2007 Frederic Ives Medal, and the 2006 National Medal of Science. He holds a BS from Williams College (1953), a BA from Cambridge University (1955), and a PhD from Harvard University (1959).

Highlights of this interview include:

  • Early years, including family life and his experiences at Williams College.
  • Work on atomic clocks with Jerrold Zacharias at Harvard University.
  • Transition from Harvard University to MIT; research on Rydberg atoms.
  • Advice for aspiring experimental physicists.
  • Research on Bose-Einstein condensation and the journey to taking up that work.
  • Mentoring MIT students, the “model teacher,” and some of the best ways to engage students.

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