William & Mary

Von Baeyer Receives American Institute of Physics Andrew Gemant Award

bayerIn recognition of his profound contributions to cultural, artistic and humanistic dimensions of physics, William and Mary Chancellor Professor of Physics Hans C. Von Baeyer recently received the American Institute of Physics Andrew Gemant Award.

The award celebrates Von Baeyer's authorship of many highly acclaimed articles and books, and his delivery of countless lectures that illustrate his dedication and ability to communicate physics to wide audiences. In its description of this year's award recipient, the American Institute of Physics states of Von Baeyer, "His tremendous gift for science writing is reflected by prose that is crisp, captivating and illuminating. An accomplished theoretical physicist, his writings reflect such depth, passion and clarity that even the most scientifically naïve can't help but care about science." Von Baeyer joins an elite list of past recipients that includes famed British theorist Stephen Hawking among other equally influential physicists.

"I am obviously honored to be in such good company," Von Baeyer said. "There are other people on the list of recipients who have been my heroes throughout my career-Philip Morrison, who died just days ago after an illustrious career, part of which is he spent as the book reviewer for Scientific American; Gerald Holton, a preeminent historian of history at Harvard; Brian Greene of Columbia, who is right now riding high with some wonderful television programs explaining particle physics to the world; Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate-these are my ideals in life. I am very happy to be singled out in my profession by my colleagues."

It was an article about general relativity written in 1979 and published in the Willilam and Mary Gazette that became the catalyst for Von Baeyer's ambitious efforts to popularize physics. Since then, he has authored many articles for popular magazines, books and television. He is the author of the Emmy-nominated script for a one-hour television production called "The Quantum Universe" shown on the Public Broadcasting Network. Von Baeyer is also the author of five books including his most recent, Information: The New Language of Science, which has been published in both English and German.

"I think my interest is a reflection of my passion for teaching. I'm really an enthusiastic teacher. I like to share, and I like to share at all levels, from kindergarten on up. At William and Mary, you are encouraged to teach and teach very well to people who are not in your field," Von Baeyer said. "This award has to do with bringing the two sides of two cultures together, and I'm happy to have done my little bit to do that, and that's particularly appropriate for William and Mary."

As thanks for the for its support, Von Bayer has designated William and Mary to receive, as part of the Andrew Gemant Award, a $3,000 grant to further the public communication of physics. Funds from the grant will be used to create a collection of new, interesting equipment that faculty members and students can use when visiting local schools to give physics demonstrations, an endeavor of William and Mary's physics department for the past 30 years.

The award also carries a $5,000 prize and an invitation to deliver a lecture, the forum for has not yet been determined.

The Gemant award comes on the heels of Virginia's 2005 Beverly Orndorff Award, which Von Baeyer received earlier this year, also in recognition of his contributions to the public understanding of physics.