Biography:Wolfgang Ketterle

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Short description: German physicist
Wolfgang Ketterle
Ketterle at a symposium at Brown University, 2007
Born (1957-10-21) 21 October 1957 (age 66)
Heidelberg, West Germany
NationalityGermany, United States
Alma materHeidelberg
Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics
Known forAtom laser
Bose–Einstein condensates
Spinor condensate
AwardsI. I. Rabi Prize (1997)
Dannie Heineman Prize (1999)
Fritz London Memorial Prize (1999)
Benjamin Franklin Medal (2000)
Nobel Prize for Physics (2001)
Order of Merit of Baden-Württemberg (2002)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Heidelberg
Doctoral advisorHerbert Walther
Hartmut Figger
Doctoral studentsMartin Zwierlein

Wolfgang Ketterle (German pronunciation: [ˈvɔlfɡaŋ ˈkɛtɐlə] (About this soundlisten); born 21 October 1957) is a German physicist and professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His research has focused on experiments that trap and cool atoms to temperatures close to absolute zero,[1] and he led one of the first groups to realize Bose–Einstein condensation in these systems in 1995.[2] For this achievement, as well as early fundamental studies of condensates, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001, together with Eric Allin Cornell and Carl Wieman.[3]


Ketterle was born in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, and attended school in Eppelheim and Heidelberg.[4] In 1976 he entered the University of Heidelberg, before transferring to the Technical University of Munich two years later, where he gained the equivalent of his master's diploma in 1982.[4][5] In 1986 he earned a PhD in experimental molecular spectroscopy under the supervision of Herbert Walther and Hartmut Figger at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, before conducting postdoctoral research at Garching and the University of Heidelberg.[5] In 1990 he joined the group of David E. Pritchard in the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT (RLE).[4] He was appointed to the MIT physics faculty in 1993 and, since 1998, he has been John D. MacArthur Professor of Physics.[5] In 2006, he was appointed Associate Director of RLE and began serving as director of MIT's Center for Ultracold Atoms.[5]

After achieving Bose–Einstein condensation in dilute gases in 1995, his group was in 1997 able to demonstrate interference between two colliding condensates,[6] as well as the first realization of an "atom laser", the atomic analogue of an optical laser.[7] In addition to ongoing investigations of Bose–Einstein condensates in ultracold atoms, his more recent achievements have included the creation of a molecular Bose condensate in 2003,[8] as well as a 2005 experiment providing evidence for "high-temperature" superfluidity in a fermionic condensate.[9]

Ketterle is also a runner, and was featured in the December 2009 issue of Runner's World's "I'm a Runner".[10] Ketterle spoke of taking his running shoes to Stockholm when he received the Nobel Prize and happily running in the early dusk. Ketterle completed the 2013 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:49:16,[11] and in 2014, in Boston, ran a personal record of 2:44:06.

Ketterle serves on the board of trustees of the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE),[12] and participates in the Distinguished Lecture Series of CEE's flagship program for high-school students, the Research Science Institute (RSI), which Ketterle's own son Jonas attended in 2003. Ketterle sits on the International Scientific Advisory Committee of Australia's ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies.[13]

Ketterle is one of the 20 American recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics to sign a letter addressed to President George W. Bush in May 2008, urging him to "reverse the damage done to basic science research in the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill" by requesting additional emergency funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.[14]

Personal life

Since 2011, Ketterle has been married to Michèle Plott. He has five children, three with Gabriele Ketterle, to whom he was married from 1985 to 2001.[15]



  1. "Wolfgang Ketterle". 
  2. Shachtman, Tom (January 2008). "The Coldest Place in the Universe". Smithsonian Magazine. 
  3. "Nobel Prize in Physics 2001". Nobel Media. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Wolfgang Ketterle – Biographical". Nobel Media. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "Curriculum Vitae – Wolfgang Ketterle". 
  6. "Interference of Two Condensates". 
  7. Ketterle, Wolfgang (20 November 2002). "Nobel lecture: When atoms behave as waves: Bose-Einstein condensation and the atom laser". Reviews of Modern Physics 74 (4): 1131–51. doi:10.1103/revmodphys.74.1131. Bibcode2002RvMP...74.1131K. 
  8. "Physicists perform ultracold coup over molecules". MIT News. 18 December 2003. 
  9. "High-Temperature Superfluidity". 
  10. Doucleff, Michaeleen (3 November 2009). "I'm A Runner: Wolfgang Ketterle, Ph.D.". Runner's World. 
  11. "2013 Boston Marathon Top Finishers". 
  12. "Board of Trustees". 
  13. "Prof Ketterle biography". 
  14. "A Letter from America's Physics Nobel Laureates". 
  15. "Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle: CV". 

External links