Photo of David J. Wineland

David J. Wineland

  • National Medal of Science
  • Engineering

For his leadership in developing the science of laser cooling and manipulation of ions, with applications in precise measurements and standards, quantum computing, and fundamental tests of quantum mechanics; his major impact on the international scientific community through the training of scientists; and his outstanding publications.

David Wineland on relativity and atomic clocks

David J. Wineland is now known for his ground-breaking experimental methods, enabling measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems. But before these research breakthroughs, he enjoyed a simple upbringing making model airplanes and playing math games with his father. “Growing up, I was always fascinated by mechanical things, particularly anything that had an engine in it.”

Simple mathematics intrigued the high-schooler, but his attention was still more focused on his love of cars and motorcycles.

In the late 70s, Wineland began a series of ingenious experiments, studying the interactions between matter and light in quantum phenomena, leading to successful research using electric fields to capture atoms through photons.

Motivated by a desire to discover more accurate clocks throughout his career, Wineland’s accomplishments trapping ions have led to the world’s most precise measurement devices, “when we have better clocks, we have better navigation.”

By Melissa Ayala