Albert W. Overhauser

National Medal of Science

Physical Sciences

For his fundamental contributions to understanding the physics of solids, to theoretical physics, and for the impact of his technological advances.

For his fundamental contributions to understanding the physics of solids, to theoretical physics, and for the impact of his technological advances.

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Birth
August 17, 1925
Age Awarded
69
Country of Birth
USA
Key Contributions
The Overhauser Effect
Awarded by
Bill Clinton
Education
University of California, Berkeley
Areas of Impact
Energy & Environment
Affiliations
Purdue University
A

As a high school student, Albert W. Overhauser had a teacher who inspired him to become a physicist, giving up aspirations to be a civil engineer. Overhauser received his Ph.D. in physics at the University of California, Berkeley under his advisor Charles Kittel.

Early on in Overhauser’s career he made a groundbreaking discovery, now known as the Overhauser effect. He developed a theory of dynamic nuclear polarization, which said that the nuclear polarization in a metal could be increased 1,000-fold if one excited the resonance of the conduction electron spins sufficiently strongly.

Since his original discovery, the Overhauser effect has been used in nuclear magnetic resonance applications to determine the structure of proteins and other molecules. The nuclear Overhauser effect is considered by many to be the most powerful tool for determining the structure of complex biological molecules, and is used in a wide variety of fields including chemistry, biomedical sciences, clinical medicine, pharmacology, physics and structural biology.

By Jen Santisi

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