Photo of Calvin F. Quate

Calvin F. Quate

  • National Medal of Science
  • Engineering

For his contributions to microscopy, particularly the scanning acoustic microscope and the atomic force microscope.

Calvin F. Quate joined Stanford University in 1961 as a professor in applied physics and electrical engineering. Throughout his research career, Quate has worked on acoustic amplifiers, interaction of acoustics with semiconductors and acoustic correlators– all of which have become important fields of research.

Quate’s early research in acoustics led to the invention of the scanning acoustic microscope, which has a resolution exceeding optical microscopes. It can reveal structure in optically opaque or transparent materials in sharp contrast that are not easily seen with optics.

In 1981, Quate read about a new type of microscope able to examine electrically conductive materials. Together with Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber, Quate developed a related instrument that would work on non-conductive materials, including biological tissue, known as the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). AFM is the foundation for modern nanotechnology, and continues to be an important tool for researchers.

By Jen Santisi