Frank Wilczek

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Frank Wilczek
Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek 2007.jpg
Wilczek in 2007
Frank Anthony Wilczek

(1951-05-15) May 15, 1951 (age 67)
NationalityUnited States
EducationUniversity of Chicago (B.S.),
Princeton University (M.A., Ph.D.)
Known forAsymptotic Freedom
Quantum chromodynamics
Quantum Statistics
Spouse(s)Betsy Devine
ChildrenAmity and Mira[1]
AwardsMacArthur Fellowship (1982)
Sakurai Prize (1986)
Dirac Medal (1994)
Lorentz Medal (2002)
Lilienfeld Prize (2003)
Nobel Prize in Physics (2004)
King Faisal Prize (2005)
Scientific career
T. D. Lee Institute and Wilczek Quantum Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Arizona State University
Stockholm University
ThesisNon-abelian gauge theories and asymptotic freedom (1974)
Doctoral advisorDavid Gross

Frank Anthony Wilczek (/ˈwɪlɛk/;[2] born May 15, 1951) is an American theoretical physicist, mathematician and a Nobel laureate. He is currently the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Founding Director of T. D. Lee Institute and Chief Scientist Wilczek Quantum Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), Distinguished Origins Professor at Arizona State University (ASU) and full Professor at Stockholm University.[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.


Born in Mineola, New York, of Polish and Italian origin,[5] 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 but later "lost faith in conventional religion".[5] He has been described as an agnostic[7][8] but tweeted in 2013 that "pantheist" is "closer to the mark".[9]

He received his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and membership in Phi Beta Kappa[10] 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.[11] In 1982, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.[12] 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.

Wilczek became a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.[13] 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. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2004 was awarded jointly to David J. Gross, H. David Politzer and Frank Wilczek "for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction.” Wilczek was also the co-recipient of the 2005 King Faisal International Prize for Science. On January 25, 2013 Wilczek received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Science and Technology at Uppsala University, Sweden.[14]

He currently serves on the board for Society for Science & the Public and is a co-founding member of the Kosciuszko Foundation of the Collegium of Eminent Scientists of Polish Origin and Ancestry.[15]

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 said that "the world embodies beautiful ideas" but "although this may inspire a spiritual interpretation, it does not require one".[16][17]

Wilczek has 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 2014, Wilczek penned a letter, along with Stephen Hawking and two other scholars, warning that "Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks."[18] He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Future of Life Institute, an organization that works to mitigate existential risks facing humanity, particularly existential risk from advanced artificial intelligence.[19] He is also a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which advocates for democratic reform in the United Nations, and the creation of a more accountable international political system.[20]


In 1973, while a graduate student working with David Gross at Princeton University, Wilczek (together with Gross) 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 condensed matter physics, astrophysics, and particle physics.

In 2012 he proposed the idea of a time crystal.[21] In 2017, that theory seems to have been proven correct.[22]

Current research


For lay readers[edit]

  • 2015 A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design,(448pp), Allen Lane, ISBN 9781846147012
  • 2014 (with Stephen Hawking, Max Tegmark and Stuart Russell). "Transcending Complacency on Superintelligent Machines". Huffington Post.
  • 2008. The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00321-1.
  • 2007. La musica del vuoto. Roma: Di Renzo Editore.
  • 2006. Fantastic Realities: 49 Mind Journeys And a Trip to Stockholm. World Scientific. ISBN 978-981-256-655-3.
  • 2002, "On the world's numerical recipe (an ode to physics)," Daedalus 131(1): 142-47.
  • 1989 (with Betsy Devine). Longing for the Harmonies: Themes and Variations from Modern Physics. W W Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-30596-8.


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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Frank Wilczek - Autobiography".
  2. ^ Frank Wilczek: "A Beautiful Question" – Talks at Google
  3. ^ "Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics". Department of Physics, MIT. 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
  4. ^ Tore Frängsmyr, ed. (2005). "The Nobel Prizes 2004". Les Prix Nobel. Stockholm: Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
  5. ^ a b "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2004".
  6. ^ Dreifus, Claudia (December 28, 2009). "Discovering the Mathematical Laws of Nature". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  7. ^ Farrell, John. "God As Ultimate Artist: Frank Wilczek's Beautiful Question". Forbes.
  8. ^ Wang, Amy X. (4 August 2015). "Why Is the World So Beautiful? A Physicist Tries to Answer". Slate Magazine.
  9. ^ Wilczek, Frank (8 September 2013). "My Wikipedia entry says "agnostic", but "pantheist" is closer to the mark. Spinoza, Beethoven, Walt Whitman, Einstein – good company!".
  11. ^ Frank Anthony Wilczek at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  12. ^ "Frank Wilczek - MacArthur Foundation". Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  13. ^ "F.A. Wilczek". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 14 February 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  14. ^ "New honorary doctorates in science and technology - Uppsala University, Sweden". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  15. ^ "Kosciuszko Foundation - American Center of Polish culture - Eminent Scientists of Polish Origin and Ancestry".
  16. ^ 'A Beautiful Question' pp 1-3, 322
  17. ^ "A theoretical physicist searches for the design behind nature's beauty". Slate. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  18. ^ "Stephen Hawking: 'Transcendence looks at the implications of artificial intelligence - but are we taking AI seriously enough?'". The Independent (UK). 1 May 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  19. ^ Who We Are, Future of Life Institute, 2014, retrieved 2014-05-07
  20. ^ "Overview". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
  21. ^ Natalie Wolchover (2013-04-30). "Time Crystals' Could Upend Physicists' Theory of Time". Wired.
  22. ^ "Scientists unveil new form of matter: Time crystals". EurekAlert!.

External links[edit]