Biography:Leon Cooper

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Short description: American physicist (born 1930)
Leon N. Cooper
Nobel Laureate Leon Cooper in 2007.jpg
Cooper in 2007
Born (1930-02-28) February 28, 1930 (age 93)
Bronx, New York, U.S.
Alma materColumbia University (BA 1951, MA 1953, PhD 1954)
Known forCooper pairs
BCM theory
BCS theory
AwardsJohn Jay Award (1985)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1972)
Comstock Prize in Physics (1968)
Scientific career
InstitutionsBrown University
Doctoral advisorRobert Serber

Leon N. Cooper[1] (born February 28, 1930) is an American physicist and Nobel Prize laureate who, with John Bardeen and John Robert Schrieffer, developed the BCS theory of superconductivity.[2][3] His name is also associated with the Cooper pair and the BCM theory of synaptic plasticity.[4]

Biography and career

Cooper's mother is Jewish.[5] Cooper graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1947[6][7] and received a BA in 1951,[8] MA in 1953,[8] and PhD in 1954 from Columbia University.[8][9] He spent a year at the Institute for Advanced Study and taught at the University of Illinois and Ohio State University before coming to Brown University in 1958.[9] He has been the Thomas J. Watson Sr. Professor of Science at Brown since 1974, and director of the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems which he founded in 1973.[8] Along with colleague Charles Elbaum, he founded the tech company Nestor, dedicated to finding commercial applications for artificial neural networks.[10] Nestor, along with Intel, developed the Ni1000 neural network computer chip in 1994.[11]

Cooper with his wife, Kay Allard, in 1972

In 1969 Cooper married Kay Allard. They have two children.[12]

He has carried out research at various institutions including the Institute for Advanced Study and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The character Sheldon Cooper, featured in the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory, is named in part after Leon Cooper.[13]

Memberships and honors

  • Fellow of the American Physical Society
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Member of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Member of the American Philosophical Society
  • Member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Associate member of the Neuroscience Research Program
  • Research fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (1959–1966)
  • Fellow of the Guggenheim Institute (1965–66)
  • Nobel Prize Recipient for Physics (1972)[8]
  • Co-winner (with Dr. Schrieffer) of the Comstock Prize in Physics of the National Academy of Sciences (1968)[14]
  • Received the Award of Excellence, Graduate Faculties Alumni of Columbia University
  • Received the Descartes Medal, Academie de Paris, Université René Descartes.
  • Received the John Jay Award of Columbia College (1985)[8]
  • Recipient of seven honorary doctorates[8]


Cooper is the author of Science and Human Experience – a collection of essays, including previously unpublished material, on issues such as consciousness and the structure of space. (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Cooper is the author of an unconventional liberal-arts physics textbook, originally An Introduction to the Meaning and Structure of Physics (Harper and Row, 1968)[15] and still in print in a somewhat condensed form as Physics: Structure and Meaning (Lebanon: New Hampshire, University Press of New England, 1992).

See also

  • List of Jewish Nobel laureates


  1. Many printed materials, including the Nobel Prize website, have referred to Cooper as "Leon Neil Cooper". However, the middle initial N does not stand for Neil, or for any other name. The correct form of the name is, thus, "Leon N Cooper", with no abbreviation dots[citation needed]
  2. "Superconductivity". CERN. 21 July 2023. 
  3. Weinberg, Steven (February 2008). "From BSC to the LHC". CERN Courier 48 (1): 17–21. 
  4. Bienenstock, Elie (1982). "Theory for the development of neuron selectivity: orientation specificity and binocular interaction in visual cortex". The Journal of Neuroscience 2 (1): 32–48. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.02-01-00032.1982. PMID 7054394. 
  5. "Jewish Nobel Prize Winners in Physics". 
  6. "Bronx Science Honored as Historic Physics Site by the American Physical Society". 
  7. MacDonald, Kerri (15 October 2010). "A Nobel Laureate Returns Home to Bronx Science". The New York Times. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 "Leon Cooper". 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Vanderkam, Laura (15 July 2008). "From Biology to Physics and Back Again: Leon Cooper". Scientific American. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  10. Johnson, Colin (October 17, 1988). "Neural Network Startups Proliferate Across The U.S.". The Scientist 2 (19). Retrieved March 8, 2018. 
  11. "Nestor's neural chip destiny now in its own hands". Tech Monitor. April 14, 1994. 
  12. Carey, Charles W. (2014). American Scientists. Infobase Publishing. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-4381-0807-0. 
  13. The Big Bang Theory, la fórmula perfecta del humor. (October 31, 2010)
  14. "Comstock Prize in Physics". National Academy of Sciences. 
  15. Cushing, James T. (1978). "Review of An Introduction to the Meaning and Structure of Physics by Leon N. Cooper". American Journal of Physics 46 (1): 114–115. doi:10.1119/1.11116. Bibcode1978AmJPh..46..114C. 

External links