Berni Alder

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Berni Julian Alder
Berni Alder.jpg
Born 1925
Residence United States
Nationality Swiss American
Institutions University of California at Berkeley
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
University of California at Davis
Alma mater University of California at Berkeley
California Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisor John Gamble Kirkwood
Known for molecular dynamics simulation
Notable awards Boltzmann Medal (2001)
National Medal of Science (2009)

Berni Julian Alder (born 1925 in Germany) is an American physicist specialized in statistical mechanics, and a pioneer of numerical simulation in physics.


Alder was born as a Swiss citizen in Germany. After the Nazis came to power, he moved to Switzerland, and to the United States in 1941 with his family in Switzerland, where he attended the University of California at Berkeley. He was interrupted by the World War II and went into the Navy. After he came back to Berkeley, he got a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1946 and a master's degree in chemical engineering in 1947. He went to the California Institute of Technology[citation needed] to study under John Gamble Kirkwood for his PhD in 1948 and worked for the investigation of phase transitions in hard-sphere gas with Stan Frankel, where he got the idea to use the Monte Carlo method. After he finished at Caltech in 1952, he went to Berkeley and worked part-time at Berkeley to teach chemistry and part-time as a consultant under suggestion of Edward Teller in the nuclear weapons program for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to help with the equations of state. In collaboration with Thomas Everett Wainwright, he developed techniques for molecular dynamics simulation in the mid-1950s, including the liquid-solid phase transition for hard sphere[1] and the velocity autocorrelations function decay in liquids.[2][3]

Alder, along with Teller, was one of the founders of the Department of Applied Science in 1963.[4] He was a professor of Applied Science at the University of California at Davis, and is now Professor Emeritus.

In 2001, he was awarded the Boltzmann Medal for inventing technique of molecular dynamics simulation.

He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008.[5] In 2009, he was awarded the National Medal of Science.[6]

Alder was a Guggenheim Fellow. He was the editor of the book series Methods in Computational Physics and the founder of the magazine Computing.


  1. ^ B. J. Alder and T. E. Wainwright (1957). "Phase Transition for a Hard Sphere System". J. Chem. Phys. 27 (5): 1208. Bibcode:1957JChPh..27.1208A. doi:10.1063/1.1743957. 
  2. ^ B. J. Alder and T. E. Wainwright (1962). "Phase Transition in Elastic Disks". Phys. Rev. 127 (2): 359–361. Bibcode:1962PhRv..127..359A. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.127.359. 
  3. ^ B. J. Alder and T. E. Wainwright (1970). "Decay of the Velocity Autocorrelation Function". Phys. Rev. A 1 (1): 18–21. Bibcode:1970PhRvA...1...18A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevA.1.18. 
  4. ^ "UCD professor emeritus to receive National Medal of Science at White House next month". Davis Enterprise. September 22, 2009. Retrieved January 13, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Berni Alder receives National Medal of Science". Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 2009-09-18. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 

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