Michael Fisher

Michael Fisher

Michael Ellis Fisher
Born (1931-09-03) 3 September 1931
Nationality United Kingdom
Fields Statistical physics
Institutions University of Maryland, College Park
Alma mater King's College London
Doctoral advisor Cyril Domb
Doctoral students David R. Nelson
Gunduz Caginalp
Daniel Styer
Graeme Milton
Albert Jin
Known for Theory of phase transitions
FKT algorithm
Notable awards Irving Langmuir Award (1971)
Wolf Prize (1980)
Boltzmann Medal (1983)
NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing (1983)
Lars Onsager Prize (1995)
Royal Medal (2005)

Michael Ellis Fisher (born 3 September 1931) is an English physicist, as well as chemist and mathematician, known for his many seminal contributions to statistical physics, including but not restricted to the theory of phase transitions and critical phenomena.

Academic background

Michael E. Fisher received his BSc from King's College London, where he also earned a PhD in physics in 1957. He was appointed to the faculty as a lecturer the following year, becoming a full professor in 1965. In 1966 he moved to Cornell University where he became professor of chemistry, physics, and mathematics, chairing the chemistry department from 1975 to 1978. In 1971, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1973, he and Jack Kiefer were the first two Cornell faculty elected as Horace White Professors.[1] Fisher was elected Secretary of the Cornell University Senate. In 1983, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences, chemistry section. Since 1987 he has been at the Institute for Physical Science and Technology at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Fisher currently lives in Maryland with his wife Sorrel. They have four children. Two of them are also theoretical physicists: Daniel S. Fisher currently works at Stanford,[2] while Matthew P.A. Fisher works at the University of California, Santa Barbara.[3] Fisher has seven grandchildren.

Wolf Prize

Fisher together with Kenneth G. Wilson and Leo Kadanoff won the Wolf Prize in 1980. The prize was awarded with the following comment: "Professor Michael E. Fisher has been an extraordinarily productive scientist, and one still at the height of his powers and creativity. Fisher's major contributions have been in equilibrium statistical mechanics, and have spanned the full range of that subject. He was mainly responsible for bringing together, and teaching a common language to chemists and physicists working on diverse problems of phase transitions."

Boltzmann Medal

When, in 1983, Fisher was awarded the Boltzmann Medal. The following comments were made by Cyril Domb:

Michael Fisher first entered the field of statistical mechanics in the late 1950s. Within a few years he had established a reputation as the leading authority in the field of critical phenomena, a position which he has maintained ever since. During the past two decades he has been a major driving force behind the very great progress which has taken place. It is not possible in the short time available to do justice to flood of papers with which Michael Fisher has been associated. Some of these have initiated new areas of research; for example the exact susceptibility of the two-dimensional Ising model, correlation in the three-dimensional Ising model and critical scattering, renormalization of critical exponents resulting from hidden variables, finite size scaling, the droplet model, partial differential approximants, the ANNNI model. Others, review articles, have become classics to which successive generations of graduate students and other researchers in the field have turned for guidance; for example the Boulder lectures on critical phenomena, the 1964 Journal of Mathematical Physics review of correlation in fluids and magnets, the often-quoted 1967 review in Reports on Progress in Physics, and the 1973 Reviews of Modern Physics review of renormalization group. Each and every of one of his papers contains new information of significance, and his collaborators will all verify that nothing is allowed to appear in print without Michael Fisher personally assuring himself that it measures up to his high standards. It would need quite an effort to list the research papers that have been sparked by footnotes in Michael Fisher's publications. Of not less importance than his publications has been the personal influence which he has exercised as teacher on his many graduate students and collaborators; the invited lectures which he delivered so faultlessly and impeccably at countless national and international gatherings; the comments and criticisms which he has made during conference discussions (the atmosphere at conference is always more tense and exciting when Michael Fisher is present); and his many discussion with and directive to experimental workers in the field. From the historical point of view the peak of his achievement to date has undoubtedly been the role which he played in the emergence of the renormalization group. Kenneth Wilson has stated publicly that all his knowledge of critical phenomena was acquired from Michael Fisher. Michael's presence at Cornell was essential ingredient of his major achievement of the present era. The Boltzmann medal for 1983 is awarded to Michael Fisher for his many illuminating contributions to phase transitions and critical phenomea during the past 25 years.

Lars Onsager Prize

Fisher won the Lars Onsager Prize in 1995 "[f]or his numerous and seminal contributions to statistical mechanics, including but not restricted to the theory of phase transitions and critical phenomena, scaling laws, critical exponents, finite size effects, and the application of the renormalization group to many of the above problems".

Award and honours

Bibliographical note

  • N. David Mermin My Life with Fisher, J. Stat. Phys. 110, 467–473 (2003); see also.


  1. ^ 2 Professors Are Named To Horace White Chairs, Cornell Chronicle, vol. 4, no. 19, Feb. 22, 1973. Page 3. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
  2. ^ Stanford Department of Applied Physics
  3. ^ KITP at UCSB
  4. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter F". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 

External links

  • Homepage at University of Maryland
  • Wolf prize citation
  • Boltzmann medal citation
  • Lars Onsager prize citation
  • BBVA award citation
  • Michael Fisher at the Mathematics Genealogy Project