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Wolfgang Panofsky

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Subject: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Frank Oppenheimer, Melba Phillips, List of National Medal of Science laureates
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Wolfgang Panofsky

Wolfgang Kurt Hermann "Pief" Panofsky (April 24, 1919 – September 24, 2007), was a physicist who won several awards including the National Medal of Science.

Early life

Panofsky was born the son of renowned art historian Erwin Panofsky in Berlin, Germany. He received his bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1938 and obtained his PhD from Caltech in 1942. Around this time (in 1942), he became a U.S. citizen.[1]

Academic career

From 1945 to 1951, Panofsky held an assistant and then associate professorship at the University of California, Berkeley, before permanently establishing himself as Professor of Physics at Stanford University. Between 1961 and 1984, he was the director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and continued to serve as director emeritus. He was also on the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association from 1996 until 1999 and remained a director emeritus until his death.

Panofsky was a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists[2] and won the Matteucci Medal in 1996 for his fundamental contributions to physics. He was also a recipient of the National Medal of Science, the Franklin Medal (1970), the Ernest O. Lawrence Medal, the Leo Szilard Award and the Enrico Fermi Award.[1]

During his college days, Panofsky was called "Pief" by fellow students who found his full name unpronounceable. The childhood nickname seemed to suit the ebullient physicist, and it stayed with him throughout his long life.[3] A street in the area of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, is named "Panofsky Lane".



Panofsky died at the age of 88 on September 24, 2007 in Los Altos, California, from a heart attack. Panofsky stayed active at SLAC until his last day of life.[4]


  • Classical Electricity and Magnetism by Wolfgang Panofsky and Melba Philips (1955, 1962, 1983, 1990): This book gives an accurate treatment of electricity and magnetism in its classical form and explains in detail the transition to its relativistic formulation. The original ideas are explained in great detail and thus make the book extraordinarily understandable, whereas modern books many times fall short in such explanations.

See also

External links

  • , 2 October 2007
  • W.K.H. Panofsky's SLAC web page
  • SLAC Archives and History Office Panofsky web page
  • July 2006 Interview with Dr. Panofsky (PDF)
  • Peace talk: My life negotiating science and policy by W. K. H. Panofsky (PDF)
  • Oral history interview transcript with Wolfgang K.H. Panofsky 15 May 1973, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library & Archives
  • SLAC Director's Office
  • Template:Biographical Memoirs


Preceded by
SLAC Director
1961 – 1984
Succeeded by
Burton Richter

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