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A Russian & 2 US scientists share Nobel Prize in physics

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October 12, 2000 


STOCKHOLM (AP) - A Russian and two U.S.-based researchers won the Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for work that helped create modern information technology, leading to everyday devices like the pocket calculator and cellular phones.

Zhores I. Alferov of the A.F. Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Herbert Kroemer, a German-born researcher at the University of California at Santa Barbara, will share half the prize for work in developing technology used in satellite communications and cell phones.

Jack Kilby, 76, of Texas Instruments in Dallas will get the other half for his part in the invention and development of the integrated circuit, the forerunner of the microchip, and as a co-inventor of the pocket calculator.

The prize this year is worth 9 million kronor (dlrs 915,000.)

Hermann Grimmeiss, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said the work of the three men had been invaluable in the development of modern information technology.

"Without Kilby it would not have been possible to build the personal computers we have today, and without Alferov it would not be possible to transfer all the information from satellites down to the earth or to have so many telephone lines between cities," Grimmeiss said.

The academy in this year's selections cited scientists for their work in a practical realm instead of more esoteric branches of physics like subatomic particles and quantum physics that have been honored the previous two years.

Kroemer and Alferov, 70, were cited as being early leaders in semiconductor research that has been used in mobile phones and satellite links. The same technology is used to build laser diodes, which drive the flow of information on the Internet and are found in compact disc players, bar-code readers and laser pointers.

Kilby's work led to the microchip, which has "led to our environment being flooded with small electronic apparatuses, anything from electronic watches and TV games to mini-calculators and personal computers," according to the citation.

Reached by phone at his institute in St. Petersburg, Alferov said he was excited to get the prize: "My colleagues and I are now going to uncork a bottle of champagne and celebrate."

Asked whether he expected the honor, he said, "Not really, but maybe a very little bit."

The three winners were cited for work done independently.

The awards started Monday with the naming of Arvid Carlsson of Sweden, Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel of the United States, as the winners of this year's medicine prize for discoveries about how messages are transmitted between brain cells, leading to treatments of Parkinson's disease and depression.

Carlsson, 77, a professor emiritus of the University of Goteborg in Sweden, Greengard, 74, of Rockefeller University in New York and Kandel, 70, an Austrian-born U.S. citizen with Columbia University in New York shared the prize.

The winner in the category of chemistry was to be announced later Tuesday. The economics laureate was being named Wednesday and the literature laureate on Thursday in Stockholm. This week's prizes culminate Friday with the coveted peace prize - the only one awarded in Oslo, Norway.

Alfred Nobel, the wealthy Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite, endowed the physics, chemistry, literature, medicine and peace prizes in his will but left only vague guidelines for the selection committees.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which also chooses the chemistry and economics winners, invited nominations from previous recipients and experts in the fields before whittling down its choices, but deliberations are conducted in strict privacy.

The physics prize should go to those who "shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics" and "shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind," according to Nobel's will.

Gerardus 't Hooft and Martinus J.G. Veltman, both of the Netherlands, shared the physics prize last year for developing more precise calculations used to predict and confirm the existence of subatomic particles.

The academy first recognized the importance of semiconductors when it awarded the physics prize in 1956 to William B. Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter H. Brattain for their work in developing the technology.

The economics prize was established and endowed by the Swedish national bank in 1968 and first awarded in 1969.

The prizes always are presented Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896.

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