Photo of Julian Schwinger

Julian Schwinger

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For [his] profound work on the fundamental problems of quantum field theory, and for many contributions to and lucid expositions of nuclear physics and electrodynamics.

Julian Schwinger wasn’t your average child. He enjoyed pulp magazines and comic books, drawn to their manipulations of real life scientific principles. In his spare time, he read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover.

At age 14, he graduated high school. Two years later, he published his first physics paper while enrolled at the City College of New York – sparking a career of research on the topic of quantum electrodynamics. This work, focused on the interaction between electromagnetic fields and electrically charged particles, would eventually win him a Nobel Prize.

But Schwinger’s triumphs weren’t without adversity.

In 1989, the physicist took interest in cold fusion – nuclear reactions feasible at room temperature. He wrote several papers on the topic and resigned from the American Physical Society after the organization refused to publish them. “The pressure for conformity is enormous,” he wrote. “ … The replacement of impartial reviewing by censorship will be the death of science.”