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Willis Eugene Lamb, Jr.

Lamb, Willis Eugene, Jr., 1913–2008, American physicist, b. Los Angeles, Ph.D. Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1938. Lamb was a professor at Columbia (1938–51), Stanford (1951–56), Oxford (1956–62), Yale (1962–74), and the Univ. of Arizona (1974–2003). He shared the 1955 Nobel Prize in Physics with Polykarp Kusch for his discovery of a phenomenon called the Lamb shift, a small but measurable difference in electron energy levels within the hydrogen atom from what had been predicted theoretically by Paul Dirac. The discovery led physicists to reexamine the basic concepts behind applying quantum theory to electromagnetism, and became a foundation of quantum electrodynamics, a key piece of modern elementary particle physics. Lamb also did work on laser physics, including theoretical research that anticipated the development of the laser, and the quantum theory of measurement.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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